By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin reportedly is meeting with Plaxico Burress Saturday night to discuss the wide receiver’s possible return to the team that drafted him with the eighth overall pick in 2000, but he would not comment on the situation.
“I don’t directly discuss free agents,” Tomlin said Thursday during training camp’s opening day at Saint Vincent College. “That’s not a prudent business practice.”
Burress, who was allowed to return to the NFL this season after spending nearly two years in jail, played five seasons with the Steelers and then signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the New York Giants. He played for them from 2005-08 before accidently shooting himself in a New York nightclub and being sentenced to jail.
Burress has 505 receptions for 7,845 yards (15.5 average) and 55 touchdowns in nine seasons. His size, 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, was coveted by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in past years, as the two became friends in their one season together. Roethlisberger was unavailable to comment on Burress’ possible return, but other players had much to say.
“We would welcome Plax with open arms if he signs here,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “I played with Plax a little bit, and I know he’s a great player. So, wherever he lines up, he’ll do great.”
Two young Steelers wideouts, second-year players Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, currently are in the top four with veteran Hines Ward and third-year pro Mike Wallace. Some believe their playing time could be cut if the Steelers re-sign Burress. Brown didn’t believe that would matter.
“We had a chance to work with him down in Miami, and we would embrace anybody as a Steeler,” Brown said. “He’s a big target, and he’s been in the game a long time. So, he’s a veteran. Me and Emmanuel, we’ve only been in the league for a minute compared to him, so he’s a great receiver.
“But I’m not worried if he’s going to take time from me or anybody else doing that. Special teams, I think, is going to be a big factor for me. … I’m glad Plax will get an opportunity to come back. He looks good. He’s in great shape, and we would welcome him here for sure.”
Sanders basically agreed with Brown’s comments, added that he believes in his talents and that the coaching staff will make the right decision for the team.
“I think it would be great for him to sign here,” Sanders said. “Whoever wants to come in and put their hand in the pile to help us win a championship, I’m all about it. If he wants to come in and help us, I’m all for it.
“He’s a big receiver, and we don’t have one. We don’t have a 6-5 receiver on this team, so I think he’d be a great addition to the red-zone package. Man, he could upgrade our receivers corps. (So), Plaxico, come back to the Burgh. We can use you out here.”
Burress meets with the Giants Friday night and the Steelers Saturday, apparently the two front-runners for his services.
Steelers Player Workouts
Offensive lineman Doug Legursky said that Roethlisberger organized offensive workouts a few days a week for several weeks during the offseason, and the events were well-attended.
Wallace wasn’t among them, however, as he trained in his hometown near New Orleans with Keenan Lewis and other friends from the area.
Super Bowl Redux
Wallace believed that while he played “OK, but I could have made more plays. And if I would have, I think we would have won.”
Since the Super Bowl is the biggest NFL stage, Wallace believed he might have wilted a bit there.
“That was a really big game,” Wallace said. “I never played in a Super Bowl before, so I’m glad we got that out of the way now. It’s too bad we didn’t win it, but that just makes us hungrier to get back there.
“I never get nervous in games, but that was a little different with the guys going into the Hall of Fame there and all the big-time people. So, it was a little different, but I’m excited about the chance to redeem myself.”
Wallace added that he would like to have two main plays back. The final play in the game and the one where he and Roethlisberger couldn’t connect on a crossing route.
The Steelers will have a walk-through in the morning and practice for the first time publicly at 3 p.m. But it won’t be in full pads.