Burress biding time, waiting for chances
It's been eight years since Plaxico Burress stepped onto Heinz Field as a Steeler, and the veteran receiver couldn't help thinking of the possibilities when the Steelers host San Diego on Sunday.
“Hopefully, I can go out there and make some plays and hopefully score a couple touchdowns. It is going to be emotional, it is going to be fun ...,” Burress said.
The problem is that Burress likely won't get that opportunity.
With Jerricho Cotchery returning from a rib injury and banged-up receivers Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace listed as probable, Burress probably will be the odd man out for the first time in his career.
The Steelers rarely use four wide receivers and never dress five. And if Burress is the odd man out, the man, perceived as a troublemaker by many around the league that kept him unsigned for nine months, won't complain.
Why? Because of a promise he made Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert before signing.
“Like I told the guys upstairs, I am willing to go out and fulfill whatever role is presented to me, and I stand by that,” Burress said. “Whenever they put me in the game, I want to answer the call.”
Burress has been nothing more than an afterthought since signing with the Steelers two weeks ago.
He's yet to make a catch, he's been targeted only two times and has played only 12 of 132 snaps, including only one last week against Baltimore.
For a 35-year-old who has 8,400 career yards and 63 touchdowns, it can't be easy taking an ancillary role on a team that drafted you in the first round a decade before.
“I would think (it's tough), but you also have to consider he hadn't been on a team for most of the year,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “I think he has been around long enough to understand where he fits right now.”
Burress mostly was used in the red zone against Cleveland. He was targeted twice, one of which resulted in a pass-interference call in the end zone that set up Chris Rainey's touchdown run.
With Brown back last week, Burress' role diminished to a single snap, and that came only because Sanders hurt his shoulder.
“You kind of sense your day will come,” Burress said. “I have three great talents in front of me. I have never been around a group of guys with that much talent and speed. They all are very talented, and I just sit back and enjoy.”
Burress knows that limited opportunities now don't necessarily mean things will stay that way. Injuries could vault him into a prominent role.
“He has been around long enough to understand how it goes,” Haley said. “He is mature enough to handle it. He is a grown man that understands what he is trying to work toward.”
Burress spent the early part of the week with the first team re-connecting with Ben Roethlisberger — his quarterback in his final season with the Steelers in 2004.
Burress said he's digesting the playbook but still finds himself making the occasional mistake.
“I pride myself in knowing what to do,” Burress said. “I missed a couple calls at the line of scrimmage (Wednesday). I have to tighten those things up and put the trust in the coaches that I can go out and play whatever the call is.”
Burress signed a one-year deal with the Steelers for the veteran minimum with the intention of showing other teams around the league that he can still be a productive player while not being a distraction.
“Everything is not greener on the other side as you might imagine when you leave,” Burress said.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org