The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a scary situation with nagging injury problems at receiver and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being out for an unknown amount of time, but they gained some relief in a big way by signing veteran receiver Plaxico Burress.
According to Mike Garafolo of USA Today, the Steelers officially signed Burress late Tuesday night to bolster their wideout position, which has fallen victim to the injury bug in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, perennial No. 2 receiver Antonio Brown was knocked out of the game against the New York Giants. He's missed basically all of November with an ankle injury. Things got even worse for the Steelers against the Ravens last Sunday, as veteran wideout Jerricho Cotchery suffered broken ribs in the loss, according to the same USA Today report.
While Cotchery hasn't been a huge factor in the Steelers' passing attack, with just 11 receptions for 136 yards on the season, he has logged a considerable amount of snaps and has been an increasingly valuable veteran presence on this receiving corps.
Replacing Cotchery with a player of Burress' ability is a no-brainer. With Cotchery's pedestrian numbers this season, there's no doubting that Plax could easily trounce that level of production with his red-zone efficiency and reliability.
The Steelers are in desperate need of some help in the touchdown-scoring department. Two targets—Heath Miller and Mike Wallace—have six receiving scores apiece, while no other target has pulled in more than one touchdown.
Burress is a TD machine, even at the age of 35. He proved that in his 2011 campaign with the New York Jets, a season in which he was sparsely featured but still racked up eight touchdowns on 45 receptions.
It's amazing to me that the Jets refused to bring Plax back in 2012, especially when their receiving corps fell apart early in the season. Rex Ryan attributed it to wanting younger players with more speed (h/t NBC Sports), so they opted to sign Jason Hill instead.
With Wallace and Miller tearing it up this season, it's not looking like the Steelers are desperate for receivers who can play every down and help them move along drives. Their biggest need is a lanky, reliable pass-catcher who poses a red-zone threat. There's not a better candidate on the market to fill this position than Burress.
There's no doubting that Plax is past his prime, but if you need proof that an older receiver can produce on a contending team, look no further than Randy Moss. The 35-year-old came out of retirement to join the 49ers and has notched nearly 300 receiving yards and a couple of scores so far this season.
Additionally, Burress is returning to the team that drafted him and joins an old friend from his previous days in the black and yellow jersey, Charlie Batch. Ironically enough, he could be catching passes from Batch this weekend.
Now that we've addressed the way he fits with the Steelers system, his worth to a team that needs him and how he can contribute, perhaps the only knock left on Burress is his character. Nobody will forget the self-inflicted gun wound that sent the embattled wideout to prison for 20 months. But if there's a team that has enough sound leadership and balance to handle a potential big ego, it's Mike Tomlin's Steelers.
This is a no-brainer from every angle, and it will pay off in Pittsburgh, as Burress will end up making his mark on the 2012 NFL season after all.