Plaxico Burress Makes Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl Contenders

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 18:  Plaxico Burress #17 of the New York Jets warms up before the start of the Jets game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 18, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It isn't always the case that a 35-year-old wide receiver can make a huge difference. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, though, Plaxico Burress means the difference between playoff also-ran and potential Super Bowl champion.

The wide receiver was signed by the team Tuesday night.

Upon making his return to the NFL last year, Burress did very respectably, with 46 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns. It's a bit of surprise as to why no one chose to sign him at an earlier point in the season, but the league's loss is the Steelers' gain.

Granted, the Steelers have one of if not the best defenses in the league, but they still have to rely on a steady offense. The NFL in general is becoming more and more of an aerial league, so teams are at a disadvantage without a consistent passing attack.

The Steelers' offense has been respectable through the air this season, ranking 13th in the league, but regardless of the talent Pittsburgh possesses, nothing can prepare a team for the way injuries have threatened to ravage the team's season.

Ben Roethlisberger is the focal point of the offense, and his absence in the loss against the Ravens Sunday night showed how bad the situation can be if the Steelers have to rely on Byron Leftwich. To make things worse, Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery have been added to the seemingly endless Steelers injury report.

At this point, a warm body would be an upgrade for the Pittsburgh receiving corps, but Burress provides something the team has been lacking all season: height.

The 6'5" receiver is an immediate threat in the red zone. The Steelers have scored a touchdown on about 49 percent of their possessions inside the red zone, only 20th in the league. It's clearly been a problem, because Pittsburgh lacked the kind of player who could beat a defense over the top.

Now they have that option. It's the kind of upgrade that can add enormous balance to an offense. A team can't be one-dimensional and win a Super Bowl.

Burress could also have the kind of impact that keeps the Steelers consistent and wins them the division, and thus in turn some home-field advantage in the playoffs. Heinz Field is one of the worst stadiums for the opposition come playoff time.

Pittsburgh can't lift the Lombardi Trophy with defense alone. If they have any hope to make it to New Orleans, the Steelers are going to have to maintain a consistent offense. That's made possible with the signing of Burress.