Over the weekend Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette made his argument for why the Steelers should at least look into bringing back wide receiver Plaxico Burress. In short: He would make the 2011 Steelers a stronger team, give them a big target with speed to get deep, he was never a bad teammate in his first stint with the club and he made a stupid mistake and paid the price for it.
My reasons for not wanting him back have little to do with the type of teammate he was (I don’t know if he was a good one or a bad one) or because he stuffed loaded guns down his sweatpants in New York clubs, and more to do with the following…
1) Do the Steelers really need a 34-year-old wide receiver that hasn’t played a down of football in two years?
If you bring in Burress one of two things will happen: He’ll either be the fifth wide receiver (assuming he dresses), or you’re going to have to take one of Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown (not to mention potentially Heath Miller) off of the field. I’m not a fan of the latter, and regarding the former, you still have Arnaz Battle and Antwaan Randle El under contract (and admittedly, I’m probably a bigger Randle El fan the most) and the possibility, long shot that it may be, that Limas Sweed could still do something in the NFL.
Where would Burress fit in? At least Randle El and Battle give you the possibility for special teams play. With Burress, you’re looking at either a No. 5 receiver or a player that doesn’t even get a hat on game day.
2) Burress’ size and “big target” status is overrated.
As I talked about back in April before the draft when it came to Jonathan Baldwin, size and height for a receiver isn’t much of a factor when it comes to productivity. Burress had a fine career with the Steelers and was absolutely a strong first-round pick. But he had his shortcomings. For example, his presence in the red zone. For a 6-foot-5 receiver that consistently had the size advantage over defensive backs Burress was rarely effective in situations where that size advantage could come into play. Like, say, inside the 20-yard line.
During his Steelers career between 2000 and 2004 Burress caught just four touchdowns inside the 10-yard line, and only 11 inside the 20. His average touchdown catch with the Steelers was over 25 yards. By comparison, Hines Ward, checking in at roughly 6-feet tall, caught 13 touchdown passes inside the 10 and 22 inside the 20 during the same time period.
The value Burress brought to the Steelers was as a downfield deep threat that could get behind defenses. Can he still do that at 34? I have my doubts. And even so, the Steelers already have the best deep threat wide receiver in the NFL with Wallace, and two other young players with downfield ability in Sanders and Brown.
3) I wasn’t opposed to the Steelers drafting a wide receiver back in April under the assumption that player could one day be a replacement for Ward. Burress, at this stage of his career, isn’t a long-term replacement for anybody. He would be a short-term roster filler at a position the Steelers have little need for in 2011.