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Steelers, WR Burress reunite; Batch takes his turn as quarterback

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 1:08 p.m.
The Steelers Plaxico Burress converts his second touchdown during the first-quarter as the Patriots Eugene Wilson applies coverage at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA Oct. 31, 2004. The Steelers ended the Patriots21-game winning streak by defeating them 34-20. STEELERS-PATRIOTS-14 PHILIP G. PAVELY PHOTO
Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch during practice on the South Side Nov. 14, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
The Steelers' Marcus Gilbert blocks for quarterback Charlie Batch in the first quarter against the Panthers at Heinz Field Aug. 30, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

A couple of bad injuries and one not-quite-good-enough game mean the Steelers' playoff hopes might be riding on a new quarterback, a familiar face at wide receiver and a very old quarterback.

Behind Door No. 3? None other than dependable old Charlie Batch, who turns 38 in a few weeks and is about to become the Steelers' third starting quarterback in as many games Sunday in Cleveland.

Just arriving, and in a limo no less? Plaxico Burress, who was last seen catching passes for Pittsburgh during Ben Roethlisberger's rookie season.

Waiting off stage? It's Brian Hoyer, seldom seen as Tom Brady's backup and, the Steelers (6-4) are hoping, also won't be seen soon as their new backup quarterback.

On one of the busiest off days for the Steelers in years, they signed Burress — their 2000 first-round draft choice — and Hoyer on Tuesday. They also cut running back Baron Batch and linebacker Marshall McFadden.

Roethlisberger also received a “very positive” medical update as he heals from his dislocated rib and SC joint injury, according to coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers apparently haven't given up hope that Roethlisberger might return for the Ravens' rematch Dec. 2.

Also ruled out for the suddenly important Browns game are wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and quarterback Byron Leftwich, both of whom fractured ribs during the pivotal 13-10 loss to the Ravens on Sunday night.

Burress enjoyed five productive seasons with the Steelers, signed a big-money deal with the Giants and helped lead them to a Super Bowl. Then, after shooting himself in the right thigh at a night club, he served 22 months in prison for violating New York's strict gun control law.

Burress returned to the NFL by catching 45 passes, eight for touchdowns, for the Jets last season. But, at 35, he couldn't land a contract for this season — until now.

NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes speculates it was because of Burress' outspoken nature and his history of trouble, which includes several suspensions and fines of $25,000 and $45,000.

“Nobody wanted that mouth and what it potentially means — popping off,” said Dukes, a longtime NFL lineman. “When you're at that stage of your career, teams will say, ‘He can help us, but we don't need that other stuff.' In this league, eight touchdowns are eight touchdowns, But teams don't need that distraction of what things not going his way could mean.

“Are you telling me the St. Louis Rams couldn't use him? You telling me the Jets, for crying out loud, they couldn't use him? ... Nobody's told me that point-blank on the record but off the record, there's that concern.”

With Antonio Brown (high- ankle sprain) and Cotchery hurting, the Steelers were down to three healthy wide receivers: Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and David Gilreath.

“He's in really good physical condition, based on the workout I just saw,” Tomlin said of Burress. “He's got very good body control for a big man.”

The 6-foot-5 Burress had 261 catches — 22 for touchdowns — in five Steelers seasons, then had 33 touchdown catches in four seasons with the Giants.

Despite Burress' troubles, Dukes said, “I think it's a great signing because one of my problems with the Steelers receiving corps; it's one of the best in the league, but their size bothers me. He gives you the ability for Ben when he comes back to do some things, put the ball up in the air, especially in the red zone.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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