Plaxico Burress to Steelers: Veteran WR Will Not Make Significant Impact in 2013

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IIMarch 12, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 02:  Wide receiver Plaxico Burress #80 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sideline during the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The first day of NFL free agency brought two major stories involving the Pittsburgh Steelers receiving corps, but only one of them really matters.

According to The New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta, 35-year-old wide receiver Plaxico Burress will sign a one-year deal in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that free-agent wideout Mike Wallace will almost certainly be leaving the Steelers for the Miami Dolphins

In 2012, Burress played four games for Pittsburgh after the team signed him to add depth to an injury-plagued set of receivers. He managed to reel in three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.

The veteran wideout proved he could still play in 2011 when he caught 45 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns in a full season with the New York Jets. But that doesn't mean he'll give the Pittsburgh passing game what it needs to help the team return to the playoffs in 2013. 

Burress' lack of speed has been a concern throughout his career. Now that he is 35 and has been in and out of football in recent years, it should be even more worrisome. 

At this point in his career, he's not the type of player who can make a significant impact. His height and ball skills will allow him to be useful in the red zone, meaning that the best-case scenario for Burress in 2013 will be that he can serve as a glorified backup tight end. 

It's still early in the offseason, and the Steelers have plenty of work to do. 

But losing a 26-year-old Pro-Bowler and bringing in a player nearly a decade older with a troubled past and questionable physical abilities is not a step towards fixing last season’s problems.

Pittsburgh's formula has allowed them to remain constantly competitive each season. Since Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004, the team has not had a losing season (they were 8-8 last season).

But this past year, cracks in the armor started showing. Much of the credit for the team’s success must be given to the defense, whose stars are aging on all three levels.

James Harrison was released, Troy Polamalu is 31 and struggled with injuries last season, and Casey Hampton is 35 years old. There should be concern in Pittsburgh that the pass rush, run defense and secondary will not be as dominant as it once was. 

But the Steelers have had impressive offensive campaigns in recent years, and the franchise is one of the few with the luxury of having an elite quarterback under center. However, the players around Roethlisberger should be cause for concern.

The team’s plans at running back don't appear to be very promising; Rashard Mendenhall is a free agent, while Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, both restricted free agents, have been given qualifying offers, according to ESPN.

After the Steelers' running back committee combined to gain just 3.7 yards per carry and ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing yards last season, the status quo may not be the best way forward for the Steelers’ ground game.

Pittsburgh has an aging defense and appears to be taking steps to keep an average corps of skill position players intact, with the exception of Wallace. This is not a strategy that will lead to improvement in 2013.

Whether it's on offense or defense, the Steelers need to bring in players who will make a significant impact next season, and Burress certainly doesn't meet this criteria. ESPN notes that the team has restructured a few of its largest contracts and has freed up cap space. 

Now Pittsburgh must start making moves that will make a difference in 2013.