Monday, June 10, 2013
Steelers will need Burress in the red zone
By Jamison Hensley
Wide receiver Plaxico Burress didn't have much of a role last season when he returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also didn't have much in the way of numbers.
What Burress doesn't lack is confidence.
"I know I can still play," Burress told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I know I can dominate in the red zone."
While I'm skeptical that Burress can "dominate" in any phase of the game at this point of his career, I believe he can be a factor in the red zone. That is going to be the only way he gets on the field.
Burress won't beat out Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, but he gives the Steelers something those starting receivers don't -- height. Brown and Sanders are under 6 feet. Burress is 6-5, which serves him well in the red zone.
Last season, Burress' only touchdown was a 12-yard grab from Ben Roethlisberger. In 2011, when he was with the New York Jets, here's the distance on his eight touchdowns: 26, 16, 3, 4, 3, 7, 4 and 9 yards. Since returning to the NFL, eight of his nine touchdowns have come in the red zone, including six inside the 10-yard line.
Burress, who turns 36 in August, was nearly invisible in four games last season for the Steelers. He had three catches for 42 yards, although you got the sense that Roethlisberger wanted to use him more in the offense. Burress will probably be the fourth or fifth receiver on the team behind Brown, Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and rookie third-round pick Markus Wheaton.
Burress' impact in the red zone will increase if tight end Heath Miller is sidelined or slowed by ACL surgery five months ago. Last season, of Roethlisberger's 67 throws inside the 20-yard line, 19 went to Miller (28 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Miller accounted for over one-third of Roethlisberger's touchdown passes in the red zone.
How does Burress expect to dominate in the red zone?
"Just go out and play at a high percentage," Burress told the paper. "In those one-on-one opportunities, just succeed at a high rate. I know I can. Being out there last year, I drew double coverage in the red zone without hardly playing, I think teams will have to respect that."