We continue on now with our offseason look at Pittsburgh Steelers free agents. We will continue to knock these out over the course of the next few weeks as we move closer towards the start of free agency. Our analysis and breakdown of unrestricted free agents started has so far included quarterback Charlie Batch and nose tackle Casey Hampton, and will now move forward today with a look at veteran wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
Player: Plaxico Burress
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 11 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2012 Salary Cap Hit: $326,471 (6 Games)
2012 Season Breakdown: Burress sat at home waiting for the phone to ring most of the season. When Antonio Brown went down with his ankle injury in the game against the New York Giants the Steelers wide receiver unit got thin. When Jerricho Cotchery went down with his rib injury in the first meeting against the Baltimore Ravens the Steelers called Burress and signed him to a one year deal for the veteran minimum.
Burress made his debut in the Week 12 game against the Cleveland Browns and even started in a three wide receiver set. He was targeted twice by quarterback Charlie Batch late in the first half and drew a pass interference penalty on Browns defensive back Sheldon Brown on the second of the two throws in his direction which led to the Steelers second, and last touchdown of the game. The next throw to Burress midway through the third quarter was intercepted by Brown. On the play it appeared as if Burress rounded off the top of his out route lazily which gave Brown the opportunity to break on the pass.
The following week in the second game against the Ravens Burress played just one snap as he came in to spell Mike Wallace who had to leave the game briefly after jamming his knee. Burress finally recorded his first reception of the season in the Week 14 game against the San Diego Chargers when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threaded a pass through heavy traffic to Burress across the middle to convert a third down and long late in the first quarter. The reception was good for 18 yards. He was unsuccessfully targeted once more late in the loss.
When both Brown and Cotchery returned to health it resulted in Burress being inactive for the games against the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals. He would, however, suit up for the meaningless season finale against the Browns and caught 2 passes from Roethlisberger for 24 yards, the second of which was a touchdown from 12 yards out with 3:25 left in the game. It would wind up being the Steelers last touchdown of the 2012 season as well.
Free Agency Outlook: Burress will turn 36 in August and you have to think that this might be the end of the line for him. He is no longer an every down player and is considered nothing more than a red zone threat thanks to his size. The Steelers former first round draft pick also has a history of back issues that will always be a concern moving forward. He doesn\’t block and doesn\’t play on special teams in addition to all of the above.
While the return of Burress to Pittsburgh was certainly great to see, any fan that is holding out hope that he will be with the team once training camp rolls around will more than likely be disappointed. If by some miracle he does sign back, it will be very late in the offseason and it will be a one-year veteran qualifying contract that comes with a discounted salary cap hit.
The potential loss of Wallace in the upcoming free agency period will result in the Steelers turning to the draft to reload. Keep in mind that Cotchery is currently under contract for next season as well and he is 5 years younger than Burress. The Steelers must get younger at the position, not older.
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