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Steelers WR Burress says he isn't finished

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 1:42 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune Review The Steelers' Plaxico Burress during practice on the South Side Nov. 21, 2012.

During his 10-month NFL layoff, Plaxico Burress was asked what he could do if he had another chance to play.

Burress' response? “(I could) have a two- or three-touchdown game coming off the couch.”

The Steelers would be overjoyed with a lot less, even if Burress believes he has a lot more to prove to his old team, his new teammates and the 31 teams that passed on him.

Burress isn't sure why he couldn't land a job following his 45-catch, eight-touchdown season a year ago with the Jets. It could have been his perceived attitude, a résumé that includes prior suspensions and fines or the 20-month prison sentence he served after pleading guilty to a weapons-possession charge in New York, where he accidentally shot himself at a nightclub.

But be assured Burress isn't back with the Steelers to be just another spare part.

At 35, he still thinks he can be the big-play receiver he's always been, first with the Steelers and later with the Giants, for whom he made a Super Bowl-winning catch.

“I want to just kind of add a different wrinkle to this offense,” Burress said Wednesday. “Get down there inside the 20, draw some double coverage, open some other guys up. There's a few things I can do.”

Burress calls the Antonio Brown-Mike Wallace-Emmanuel Sanders-Jerricho Cotchery unit the best he's been around.

“That says a lot,” he said.

But with Brown out with a high ankle sprain, Wallace and Sanders aren't getting the separation from cornerbacks they had before. And none of the receivers is taller than the 6-foot Wallace, which means they're all leaping with — not leaping over — defenders inside the 20.

The Steelers are averaging 2.91 yards per play inside the 20, which ranks 26th, but that could change with the 6-foot-5 Burress.

“What he showed last year was a knack in the red zone,” former Texans and Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said. “He's got a stutter-step move to get off press coverage and quick explosion. When he has success in gaining separation, he's got the hands and the size. He's not a speed guy, but his cuts are pretty smooth for a long, lanky guy.”

The question, Casserly said: “Can he get it for six games? Can he be a good solider?”

Ben Roethlisberger thinks he can, one reason why he lobbied general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin to bring Burress back following his release from prison in 2011. Burress instead signed with the Jets, mostly because of family ties.

So when Burress returned to the Steelers on Tuesday — for a prorated share of the veterans' minimum $925,000 — Roethlisberger was the first person he called. The two built quite a rapport during Roethlisberger's rookie season in 2004.

“He's not finished, and I'm not finished,” Burress said. “Let's see if we can do it again.”

Burress has three practices to get game-ready for the Browns.

“There's no doubt he can come in and (contribute immediately),” quarterback Charlie Batch said. “He's not a rookie.”

Burress appears to be in excellent shape; he has been working out extensively in south Florida this season.

“From the standpoint of going out and making plays, I understand coverages,” Burress said. “I've been around a long time, and it's just getting to the spots where I need to be.”

The Steelers hope that's five yards deep in the end zone, with the ball in his hands.

“A lot of pieces are in place here, and the goal obviously is to walk on the field and win a world championship,” Burress said. “I just want to come in and have an impact.”

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

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