Unlike his predecessor Tom Donahoe, Kevin Colbert has been more than willing to lay out the welcome mat to departed free agents if the economics and football need present itself. Thus it was with Plaxico Burress.
Capsule Profile of Plaxico Burress with the Steelers
If the Steelers let the press and the fans dictate their drafting decisions, the first draft pick of the Kevin Colbert and Bill Cowher era would have been Chad Pennington. Cowher and Colbert had a mind of their own, and Plaxico Burress became the first pick for the Steelers in the new millennium.
Burress struggled as a rookie, wining the starting job on potential along with Troy Edwards while Hines Ward sat on the bench. Edwards got benched, but Burress stayed in the game. His most famous play was an ill advised spike which was actually a fumble, him having mistakenly thought himself down.
Burress struggled in early 2001, until Hines Ward took him under his wing and instilled the importance of work ethic into him. Burress took off, first giving Kordell Stewart, then Tommy Maddox, and then Ben Roethlisberger a coveted tall receiver who was a legit downfield threat. Burress had 1000 yard seasons in 2001 and 2002 and while his number dipped in 2003 and 2004, his value to the offense was never at issue.
Burress did ruffle some feathers with his comments after the 2004 AFC Championship game, but ultimately his asking price was too high, and he departed for New York, where his game willing catch helped ensure that Chuck Noll’s run as the only coach to win four Super Bowls for what is now least 10 years and counting.
When injuries struck the Steelers wide receiving corps in 2012, Colbert dipped into the free agent market, and brought Burress back. He blew a route causing an interception in his first game back, but did score a touchdown in the season finale.
Burress entered 2013 Training Camp fighting for a roster spot, but unfortunately Burress injured his rotator cuff during camp and spent the season on IR
The Case for Keeping Burress
Ben Roethlisberger covets a tall wide receiver, and Burress fits the mold. He’s also a veteran presence who commands respect of the rest of the receiver room. No other team is going to throw money at him, and the Steelers could use a veteran insurance policy, particularly if some team decides to make a run at Jerhico Cotchery.
The Case for Letting Burress Walk
Burress is 37 and coming back from an injury. He stayed on the NFL’s unemployment line for much of the 2012 season and only made 3 catches when activated. How much, if anything, does he have left in the tank? He wasn’t even a sure shot to earn a roster spot in 2013. Is he worth tying up an off season roster spot in favor of some other more promising (and cheaper) undrafted rookie free agent?
Curtain’s Call on Burress
There’s been little word on Burress since he went on IR. While it’s possible the team would sign him and bring him to camp for insurance purposes, the most likely outcome is that the team knows that Plaxico Burress is not part of the team’s future at wide receiver and will act accordingly.