On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed the team worked out two wide receivers—Plaxico Burress and Derrick Williams—and two quarterbacks—Brian Hoyer and Mike Kafka—and said it would be signing one of each.
At receiver, it looks like Burress—formerly of the Steelers, as well as the New York Giants and Jets—will be rejoining his former team, adding depth to a position that has been ravaged by injuries of late.
Antonio Brown is still sidelined with an ankle sprain, though he's questionable thus far to play in Week 12, and Jerricho Cotchery suffered cracked ribs against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11, making it necessary that the Steelers pick up a free agent to bolster the ranks.
However, bringing Burress on is a huge mistake. Earlier this year, I said as much when Burress' name was being bounced around during Mike Wallace's holdout. Though the circumstances now are different, my opinion on the matter has not changed: The Steelers don't need Burress on their roster.
Burress was a 2000 draft pick of the Steelers, staying with the team through 2004. He was then shipped off to the New York Giants, assisting with a Super Bowl victory there before spending two years in jail after accidentally discharging a firearm in a nightclub. He returned to the gridiron last season, signing with the Jets after the Steelers gave him a courtesy meeting.
That brief history does not include the myriad legal troubles Burress found himself in beyond the notorious gun incident, and the me-first attitude that soured locker rooms against him. The latter is of the most concern presently and is the main reason why the Steelers giving him a second chance is a mistake.
The last thing the Steelers need is Burress' attitude in a season that presently appears in a bit of jeopardy. And Wallace? He's angling for a new contract—in Pittsburgh or elsewhere—and is neither going to take kindly to the Steelers signing a scoring-threat receiver when they aren't taking shots downfield with frequency, nor is he going to benefit from the dubious leadership Burress could offer him.
Burress cannot get into the ears of Wallace or any of the other young Steelers receivers—the only learning opportunity he provides is a case study of what not to do.
If the Steelers were lacking locker-room drama, then they certainly upped the quotient of it by bringing Burress back. At most, the Steelers needed an emergency No. 4 or No. 5 receiver, someone to take Cotchery's snaps or jump briefly up the depth chart while Brown continues to heal. Burress did perform a marginal role for the Jets last year as their end-zone receiver, but there's no doubt he'd prefer to have a greater amount of responsibility than that, and the Steelers won't be—and shouldn't be—giving it to him.
In Burress' 10 seasons in the NFL, he's played in 144 games, caught 550 passes for 8,457 yards and scored 63 touchdowns. He's had four seasons with 1,000 or more yards, the last being in 2007, and he spent the time between the end of last season and now working out in Florida in hopes of catching on with a team.
There's nothing wrong with Burress wanting to return to the NFL, and injuries such as those suffered by Cotchery and Brown were clearly his best ticket back. However, the Steelers are not an ideal landing spot. The decision to bring Burress back into the fold reeks of desperation for a team that's well-known for not making these types of seemingly desperate moves—it doesn't look smart or savvy, and it doesn't make sense just because he was once a Steeler.
The Steelers needed more receiver depth, to be sure, and Burress does provide that, but at what cost? This has the potential to create more problems than it solves, and the risk-to-reward ratio does not seem to benefit the Steelers either on or off the field.
While Pittsburgh had to make a move, this one was not the right one.