Mike Tomlin watched Plaxico Burress’s workout and told reporters, “He’s in really good physical condition.”
So the Steelers re-signed Kevin Colbert’s first draft pick to provide depth at the wide receiver position with Jerricho Cotchery out with fractured ribs and Antonio Brown still questionable with an ankle sprain.
The Steelers signed the 35-year-old Burress along with former New England backup quarterback Brian Hoyer after also working out WR Derrick Williams and QB Mike Kafka.
Hoyer, 27, spent three seasons with the Patriots after they signed him out of Michigan State. Hoyer has thrown 43 NFL passes and has an 80.2 passer rating. He threw only one pass last season and completed it.
Burress, 35, also out of Michigan State, was picked eighth in the first round in 2000 and played with the Steelers through 2004 before signing with the New York Giants in free agency.
With the Steelers, Burress caught 261 passes for 4,164 yards and 22 touchdowns. In 2001, he and Hines Ward became the first pair of 1,000-yard receivers in team history.
Burress spent nearly four seasons with the Giants, and scored the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl 42, but later that year he accidentally shot himself in the leg with a concealed Glock pistol at a bar and was sentenced to two years in prison.
After his release, Burress turned down a contract offer with the Steelers and signed with the New York Jets, and last season caught 45 passes for 612 yards (13.6 avg.) and 8 touchdowns.
“He’s got very good body control for a big man,” Tomlin said of the 6-5, 235-pound Burress. “He can drop his weight at break points and obviously he’ no stranger to football.”
To make room for Burress and Hoyer, the Steelers cut RB Baron Batch and ILB Marshall McFadden.
On the injury front, Tomlin had some good news about superstars Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu.
About Roethlisberger, who sprained the S-C joint that connects the clavicle to the sternum and provides support for the first rib Tomlin said the quarterback went through an additional test Tuesday and reported that “All things are very positive, in terms of where he is, so we’re encouraged about his status.”
Tomlin didn’t rule Roethlisberger out of Sunday’s game at Cleveland, calling him doubtful, although realistically he will not play.
Polamalu, out the past six games and eight of the past nine with a calf injury, will run Wednesday for the first time.
“We’ll let his participation lead us in terms of where he might be this weekend,” Tomlin said. “He could be characterized as questionable (for Sunday).”
Ruled out for Sunday are Cotchery and Leftwich with rib injuries. Tomlin pointed to two Leftwich passes late in the game – lasers to Heath Miller and Cotchery – as signs that Leftwich wasn’t having trouble with the injured rib, if it was even injured at the time. TV cameras repeatedly showed Leftwich consulting with Dr. James Bradley throughout the second half.
Leftwich did hurt his shoulder falling into the end zone on his first-quarter touchdown run, and the TV broadcasters dwelled on Leftwich reaching under his shoulder pads, but Tomlin said the rib was fractured late. “If I had to guess I’d say it was the last sack,” he said.
Tomlin also said that defensive end Ziggy Hood is questionable with a lumbar spine sprain that will limit him early in the week. “We expect him to perk up by the end of the week,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin also expects running back Isaac Redman (concussion) to continue passing his tests and could play Sunday.
Brown, who has missed the past two games, worked out Tuesday and is questionable Sunday, as is right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who’ll begin working out in individual drills at practice.
The starting quarterback Sunday, of course, will be Charlie Batch, who’ll turn 38 in two weeks. Batch has a 5-2 record as a starter during his 11 seasons with the Steelers. His last start was Christmas Eve last season when the Steelers beat the St. Louis Rams, 27-0.