Imagine that, Plax contributing to win
[/URL] The Times/Sylvester Washington Jr.
Plaxico Burress celebrates his game-clinging touchdown with Leonard Pope in the fourth quarter
Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012 8:39 pm | Updated: 11:48 pm, Sun Dec 30, 2012.
By Mike Bires [EMAIL="firstname.lastname@example.org"]email@example.com[/EMAIL] | [URL="http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/sports/mike_bires/imagine-that-plax-contributing-to-win/article_ac20d76c-bb11-5653-bc35-5cfeb6bd4048.html#user-comment-area"] 0 comments
PITTSBURGH -- Let the record show that the Steelers’ final touchdown of a madcap season was scored by Plaxico Burress.
How bizarre is that?
There was Plax, taking a couple bows in the end zone with 3:20 left to play after clinching a win that allowed the Steelers to finish a ho-hum 8-8.
The whole Burress dilemma was one of many mysteries in a season of hope that ended in failure.
After re-acquiring Burress on Nov. 20, the Steelers never knew quite what to do with him. It wasn’t until the season finale, Sunday's 24-10 win over the Browns, that coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley finally put him to good use.
In a game in which no Steelers’ receiver was targeted more than three times or caught more than two passes, Burress proved that at age 35 he could still make significant plays.
He caught two passes, each for 12 yards. He also accounted for 12 penalty yards by drawing a pass interference flag against Cleveland star cornerback Joe Haden.
The touchdown was classic Burress, a high ball from Ben Roethlisberger thrown where only a big man could get it.
It was a classic red zone mismatch: Burress, at 6-foot-5, matched up man-to-man against the 5-11 Haden.
Take a bow, Plax.
“It was nice, it was fun,” Roethlisberger said of his first TD pass to Burress since 2004. “He’s got a big body down there and he made a great catch.”
So the question begs to be asked: Where was Burress last week when the Steelers needed to beat the Bengals?
Why did Tomlin choose not to even dress him in a game the Steelers needed to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive?
Instead, Tomlin dressed five running backs: Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Rainey and Baron Batch.
Are you kidding?
In a game they really had to win, the Steelers dressed Baron Batch instead of Burress, a former first-round draft pick who caught a winning TD for the Giants in the Super Bowl a few years ago.
Batch had zero carries and zero catches in last week's 13-10 loss before breaking his arm covering a kickoff late in the first half.
Even dressing Rainey over Burress was a mistake. Granted, Rainey returns kickoffs but it’s not that he’s a game-breaking specialist. In a game the Steelers had to win, Emmanuel Sanders could have returned kickoffs. As it turns out, Rainey didn’t have any carries or any receptions and only returned two kickoffs for 33 and 34 yards.
What a waste of manpower.
Ever since returning to Pittsburgh, Burress was used sparingly. Out of 195 offensive snaps in his first three games, he was on the field for only 19 of them. He didn’t dress in the loss in Dallas. He didn’t dress in the home loss to the Bengals.
In the locker room after Sunday’ win over the Browns, Burress chose not to criticize the coaches for the way he’s been used.
“You know, all I can do is prepare,” he said.
But Burress looked good enough against the Browns that Roethlisberger envisioned him back in a Steelers uniform next year.
“He has plenty of game left,” Roethlisberger said.
Too bad the Steelers didn’t put Burress to work sooner. Like last week.