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Robinson: 2nd tours with teams not always wise

| Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 11:52 p.m.
Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress during practice on the South Side Nov. 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Once a Steeler, always a Steeler?

Not quite.

The Steelers usually avoid bringing back players who left for other teams, preferring younger players with upside to older athletes on the downslide.

Receiver Plaxico Burress is one of those infrequent exceptions (he last played for them in 2004). The only other players in franchise history who returned after being away so long were linebacker Chad Brown (10 seasons), tight end Walter Rasby (10 seasons) and cornerback Willie Williams (eight seasons).

The Steelers don't know what they will get out of Burress at age 35, but it's likely to be more than they received from any of the above.

Across sports, parting often is such sweet sorrow, but returning is more sorrowful still.

Some sports figures who came back but probably should have stayed away include:

• Herschel Walker, who went back to the Cowboys late in his career but scored only three touchdowns in two seasons.

• Allen Iverson returned to the 76ers in 2010 but, after playing in only 25 games over two months, left to attend to family business and never returned.

• Mark Messier had two runs with the Rangers. You might remember the first. The second? He scored only 43 goals his final three seasons combined.

• Randy Moss had two touchdown catches during his brief second tour with the Vikings — 90 fewer than during his first.

• Ken Griffey Jr. was so disinterested during his second stop in Seattle that he reportedly was seen napping in the clubhouse during a game. He retired not long afterward, perhaps so he didn't have to make any more of those annoying late-night, red-eye flights.

• Johnny Majors, Nate McLouth, John Russell, John Candelaria, the Oakland Raiders: No explanation needed.

‘Incredible' numbers

The Steelers play the Cowboys in three weekends, so here's an up-to-date tally to keep in mind: Steelers 90,592. Cowboys 85,340

Earlier this season, the Steelers became the first team to rush for 90,000 yards since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970. The Cowboys are the only other team to reach even 85,000 yards, although the Broncos will do so with 49 more yards.

To put 90,000 yards in perspective, it's almost 24,000 yards more than the Browns have rushed for during that span. That difference is the equivalent of 24 seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher.

“Get out of here!” Hall of Famer Franco Harris said when told of the number. “That is incredible.”

Harris, who accounted for 11,950 of those Steelers yards, loves how Pittsburgh has been the one tried-and-true proponent of the running game over the decades. He wouldn't mind seeing them adopt such a mindset Sunday as Ben Roethlisberger heals. Jonathan Dwyer's 410 yards rushing are the fewest since 2003 for any Steelers leader at this stage of the season.

“Even though the game is a lot more wide open — and I think it's great to have it wide open — vanilla still comes through if you can do it, with the running game and defense,” Harris said. “But how many teams want to make that commitment? It's a whole new mindset to say you're going to run the ball. It's different, and teams are a lot more wide open in their passing schemes.”

Harris still can't get over watching teams pass on third-and-1, third-and-2 and fourth-and-1.

“We never did that,” he said.

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

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