|Plaxico Burress played for the Jets last season. He’s back with the Steelers after an eight-year absence. (US Presswire)|
It just needed to be dusted off after almost eight years.
Burress went through his first practice since rejoining the team that drafted him 12 years ago on Wednesday. It was almost as if he'd never left -- right down to the familiar No. 80.
"I still have some true Pittsburgh fans around here," said Burress, the No. 8 overall pick of the Steelers in 2000. "That's one of the reasons I went back to my old number. They have to dust off the old jerseys. A lot of my family and friends are going through their closets. I told them to knock off the dust and put it back on and let's get back to work."
Burress' career path is well documented. After five years with the Steelers, he signed as a free agent with the New York Giants, with whom he spent four seasons -- winning a Super Bowl and getting arrested after shooting himself in the leg in New York. After missing two seasons due to the mandatory jail sentence, he signed with the New York Jets and played last season there.
But even after a productive season in which he caught 45 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns, Burress could not find a job this past offseason.
"I just remained positive," Burress said. "I've stayed in pretty good shape. I kept telling myself I had some good football left in me.
[Steelers general manager] Kevin Colbert and Coach [Mike] Tomlin had some faith in me. They worked me out yesterday. I felt really good. They liked what they saw. That works for us."
Burress said injured Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was the first person he saw upon reporting to the team Tuesday. The first thing he did? Study the playbook.
"If you don't know what you are doing out there, you can't play," Burress said. "It doesn't matter how good you are. The first thing I did was look at the playbook and I asked questions. Where do I need to be and what do I need to do?"
Among the players still on the team from Burress' first tenure are Roethlisberger, LB Larry Foote, NT Casey Hampton and injured S Troy Polamalu. Burress, who played at Michigan State, said he shared some of the same jokes with some of them -- including giving Foote, a Michigan alum, heat for the fact that the Spartans beat the Wolverines four consecutive seasons.
Burress has never played with the likes of WRs Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace. But he did pay that group quite the compliment when he said, "I don't think I've ever been around a collection of better receivers."
With Brown doubtful to play Sunday in Cleveland due to an ankle injury and WR Jerricho Cotchery out with cracked ribs, Burress figures to be part of the Steelers three-receiver sets with Sanders and Wallace against the Browns.
"Based on where I am at and getting with these guys, and gathering a rapport with the quarterbacks and offense, I am learning where I need to be," Burress said. "I am adding a different wrinkle to the offense. When we get down inside the 20 or 25 yard line, maybe I could open up some things for the other guys. Those are a few things I can do. I just want to get to work."
Pittsburgh also signed former New England Patriots undrafted free-agent quarterback Brian Hoyer.