Just two days after a game in which it appeared that the Pittsburgh Steelers offense was falling apart at the seams, Pittsburgh has made some moves to add some much-needed depth at both the quarterback and wide receiver positions by signing two former Michigan State Spartans.
Both Plaxico Burress and Brian Hoyer have officially been added to the Steelers roster and could see the field as early as Sunday afternoon against the Browns in Cleveland. However, both players will play different roles for this team, and both will have very different impacts.
Plaxico Burress, WR
Coming off a season with the New York Jets in which Burress scored eight touchdowns, a lot of people thought he'd be a highly targeted free agent. But Burress' phone never rang. Not even from a Jets team whose receiving corps has been depleted down to almost nothing.
Burress is familiar with the Steelers organization, having spent the first five seasons of his career in Pittsburgh, so the signing makes sense in that regard. But it's also a very practical one for the Steelers offense.
Pittsburgh may have a very talented core of receivers with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, but one thing they lack desperately is size. Jerricho Cotchery is the tallest receiver, standing at 6'1", and he's going to miss time with an injury suffered against Baltimore.
Come to think of it, the Steelers haven't had a receiving weapon with size since...well...Plaxico Burress.
Burress, standing 6'5", adds a big boost in height and gives the Steelers someone else besides Heath Miller to target inside the 20-yard line. Pittsburgh currently ranks 20th in the NFL in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns just 48 percent of the time it enters the opponent's 20.
This is somewhat of a specialty of Burress', having scored 63 touchdowns in his career, including eight on just 45 receptions last season.
There's no question that Burress, 35, has lost a step and isn't going to be the receiver he was with the New York Giants or even in his early days in Pittsburgh, but I love the signing here. Burress, by name alone, will garner attention from defensive backs and open things up for the Steelers' other receivers.
Brian Hoyer, QB
On Sunday night, backup quarterback Byron Leftwich left a lot to be desired in replacing Ben Roethlisberger. And although I give him credit for playing through a tough injury, it was clear the pain affected him throwing the ball.
So with Leftwich out, the Steelers have turned to 38-year-old Charlie Batch to run the offense. And for a replacement, they've added former New England Patriots QB Brian Hoyer.
I'll start by saying I was a little shocked when the Patriots announced they'd be releasing the 27-year-old signal-caller, who they seemed to be grooming as Tom Brady's replacement. I'll also add that I think Hoyer is the perfect guy to have as a backup on this team.
Hoyer has a quick release and has been very accurate throughout the course of his three-year career. Those are two qualities that fit very well into what the Steelers and offensive coordinator Todd Haley want to do offensively.
Now, I'm not saying that Hoyer should be given the nod right away or will even battle with Batch for the starting job. Batch has actually been very effective in his seven career starts with the Steelers. But consider this Hoyer's audition for a future role with the team.
Batch is now 38 years old and will most likely hang it up after this season. Byron Leftwich is on the wrong side of 30 and isn't a very good fit in this Steelers offense, as seen in the game against the Baltimore Ravens. Having a guy like Hoyer could pay dividends for the Steelers down the road, considering Ben Roethlisberger has only played a full season just once in his illustrious career.
If Hoyer can pick up the offense over the next few weeks, he's got a good shot to be the long-term solution for the Steelers as a backup quarterback. Forget him starting for the team in Ben's absence, this is a nice pickup for the future.