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Steelers Blog

Burress back home with Steelers

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 21, 2012 – 10:09 pm


There was a familiar face in the Steelers locker room on Wednesday as wide receiver Plaxico Burress was back in the black and gold, wearing the familiar No. 80 practice jersey and a big grin.

“I still have some true Pittsburgh fans around here. That’s one of the reasons why I went back to my old number,” said Burress. “They have to dust off the old jerseys. A lot of my family and friends are going through their closets. I told them to knock off the dust and put it back on and let’s get back to work.”

The team signed him on Tuesday to add depth after Jerricho Cothery suffered broken ribs late in the loss to the Ravens on Sunday night. Burress wasted no time getting back to work, practicing on Wednesday and looking like he fit right in.

“It feels great. There is a comfort level here,” said Burress of being back. “A lot of the guys are still here when I was here. I was just walking around seeing all the old faces. I am happy to be back playing football, but more than anything there is a comfort level. Everybody has been so supportive. I am just anxious to get back to playing football.”

Burress caught up with some of his former teammates, joking with Casey Hampton and Larry Foote, but first and foremost he got down to business learning the game plan for this week.

“The first thing I did was study the playbook,” said Burress, who said he has been working out to stay in shape. “I’ve been playing in this league a long time. I’ve seen some fast and talented guys throughout the years that couldn’t grasp the mental part of the game that wouldn’t allow just their physical abilities to show. If you don’t know what you are doing out there, you can’t play. It doesn’t matter how good you are. The first thing I did was look at the playbook and I asked questions. Where do I need to be and what do I need to do?”

His role has yet to be defined, whether his 6-5 frame will used in the red zone or to stretch the field, but with Cotchery out and Antonio Brown working his way back from an ankle injury, he is willing to do whatever is asked.

“Whatever role they give me, like I told Coach (Mike) Tomlin, I am going to come in and try to perform to the best of my ability,” said Burress. “I am picking things up pretty smoothly, a lot of the terminology is the same but there are some different things. I just have to learn the plays and get out there and make plays.

“I don’t see why I couldn’t play on Sunday. Like I said, there’s a trust level and a comfort level. I have two more days to pick up some of the things on offense. From a standpoint of just going out and making plays, I understand coverage. I have been around a long time. It’s just getting to the spots where I need to be.”

When Burress left the Steelers as a free agent after the 2004 season, eventually signing with the New York Giants, he didn’t anticipate coming back. But having the opportunity to return to Pittsburgh is something he is thrilled about.

“I didn’t know where I was going to be,” said Burress. “I cannot say that I was ever going to come back, but if you are talking about literally and physically getting a chance to finish what you started, how many guys get that opportunity?”

The team actually brought Burress in for a workout during the 2011 training camp, after he had been out of football for two years while in jail for a gun violation that resulted in his gun discharging and hitting him in the thigh. Instead of coming to the Steelers, he ended up signing with the New York Jets.

“It was a difficult decision to walk away from because of the guys that were here, James Farrior and Hines Ward, really the foundation of the team when I left. There were still here,” said Burress. “I ended up in New Jersey. My wife had a job and things like that. It was a decision I basically made for the family based on where she was at, her career and our kids. I was already established there.

“It was a tough situation to walk away from but the ending of it is that the Steelers had enough faith in me and confidence to come out here and be a good football player, be a good teammate and try to win a championship.”

Burress said he has learned from his mistakes, has put the past where it belongs, in the past, and is more than ready to move forward.

“There is nothing I can do to change the events that have occurred to me,” said Burress. “If you read about what went on behind you, then you can’t pay attention to what is going on in front of you. I am just going to keep moving forward. I’m here. I feel good. I am just blessed to have the opportunity to be with these guys and play football.

“You learn from your past experiences, football wise and in life. You go through experiences and you learn from them. That’s why they call it life.”

And now, life has put him right back where his professional football career began; a place where his love of the game blossomed; a place where he had fun playing football – something he wants to do again.  

“The goal every day you walk into this building is to win a world championship,” said Burress. “I just want to come in and have an impact, learn and teach some of the young guys some old tricks. I just want to go out and play football and have fun.”

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Inside the locker room: Charlie Batch

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 21, 2012 – 8:11 pm

Quarterback Charlie Batch talked with the media on Wednesday about this week’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

What has it been like getting the reps at quarterback?
It’s been good so far. Today is actually the first practice. I’ll get a better idea and a routine as we move on this week.

Is this just like getting back on a bike?
Right. That’s it. It’s always good to be out there. The last time I was in there was August so it’s been a couple months but to get back in the saddle, I feel good about it.

Do you have any concerns with the changes to the receiving corps?
Right now, that’s part of what we’re dealing with. We’ll be okay. We’re not going to use that as an excuse but whoever we have out there are waiting for their opportunities and the guys will go out there and compete.

Re: The Browns ability to get after the quarterback:
They did a really good job of that last week in Dallas. They did a good job of getting after Tony Romo and doing that on the road. Defensively upfront they’re very solid and we have a tough challenge ahead of us.

Todd Haley has gone out of his way to say it’s not the “Todd Haley” offense. How would you describe the offense?
Well, it’s definitely not my offense right now. I think that’s something that, right now he says it’s not his offense, it goes to whatever quarterback is in there. I think that’s something that he’s able to adjust. When you’re the quarterback, you get a lot more input in the game plan and figure out what you’re comfortable with.

Have you talked about those things with Haley yet or will you do it as the week goes on?
We’ll have to do it as the week goes on. We got the game plan this morning and as you go through the course of the week, some plays get taken out, some plays get added and when you get to Friday, pretty much everybody knows what the game plan is going into Sunday.

Have you played a game in Cleveland?
I’ve played in that stadium but I haven’t started in it.

Are there any nuances or anything to playing there? It’s supposed to be a decent day but cold.
Decent, cold. Just being up there for a number of years now, you never know what you’re going to get. We’ve been up there when it was sunny at the beginning of the season. And we’ve been up there when it was nine below it seemed like at one point. You don’t know, but either way each team has to deal with it.  

Have you played in a game with WR Plaxico Burress?
I think in 2003. I think it was whenever I had to come in for an injury. I think Tommy [Maddox] got hurt at one point during the ’03 season and I had to step in for a couple plays.

Does it seem like eight years ago that Burress was here?
It doesn’t. The one thing about it is everybody around here has kept in contact with him because he is a friend and he’s been a teammate of a lot of players, even though now the team has changed. As people continue to follow him, talk to him, they’ve been updating everybody in here.

How quickly can Burress get up to speed?
He’s been doing a good job of really trying to absorb as much as possible. Only he will be able to determine that. It’s just a matter of how the week goes on. Some verbiage is similar and some is new to him. It’s just going to be a matter of how he handles that.

How much are you looking forward to starting?
I’m always excited. These opportunities don’t come often anymore and here I am, getting up there in years and when you have this opportunity you cherish it.

Does it make it easier for you to help a guy like Burress when you have been around for all these years?
Yeah, that’s something that you go through and you’re going to help him out as they go through it. They’re going to give him a little bit to see what he can do and you just kind of expand as the week goes on. He’ll have a better answer for that as the week goes on.

What do you see from the Cleveland defense?
They’re very tough. We know we have a tough challenge ahead of us. They played Dallas well on the road. They’ve been in every single game this season, if not leading in some of them. We know we have a very tough task and it’s going to be tough on the road and that’s not something we’ve done very well so far this season.

Do you think people might underestimate what you are able to do?
Right now, you never know when you’re going to get in there. For me, I’m looking at this opportunity as a way for me to be excited about it for one, and help in any way that I can and help this team get a win because that’s what we need.

Do you think you could have made a difference if you played Sunday night?
I didn’t play. So, it’s hard to answer that.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
That’s a tough question. We have a lot of great dishes that we have. We have the turkey, the ham and when you talk about the macaroni and cheese and collard greens, there’s a little bit of everything. That’s why a lot of my teammates enjoy coming over to my house because they know we have a lot of different selections. [Laughs]

Are you still surprised with what the offense has done the last couple weeks, which is to say not a lot?
We know it’s tough to go out there and compete every week. I think that’s something that guys have stood up to the challenge of being the next guy and not disappointing this team in any way. We have a lot of people and right now I have an opportunity to help do that. I think anybody that has a chance to step in with the starters, they’re going to go out there and do their best.

How prepared are you?
I’m ready to go. That’s a part of my job description. You don’t know when you’re going to be called upon but when you are you have to be ready. That’s something you don’t take lightly and being a starter in this league allowed me to know how to prepare with and without the physical reps you get throughout practice. Either way, I’ll be ready.

Were you ready to go last week if you were called upon?
I was. And at some point, you kind of watch the game unfold and you don’t know if you’re going in. But either way you always want to make sure that you stay warm and at any given point, if you have to go in, you have to go out there and do your job.

Is it the same preparation with the guys filling in with all the injuries at wide receiver and running back?
It’s the same and every position it seems like has to deal with that at some point during the season. We really have yet to field a healthy team. Right now, everybody is kind of waiting but at the same time, is making sure to right the ship as we move forward.

How much of a comfort level is there with Burress?
Yeah, for him, he knows how to catch the ball. He’s been very successful in the league, he’s a Super Bowl champion. Nobody is expecting anything less. I know when he left years ago, nobody wanted to see him go but that’s just a part of the business. But he was able to continue his career and I think right now, being able to come full circle back, he is very familiar with this organization, they’re very familiar with him and I think it’s a win-win for both.

Is Burress’ height a big advantage for a guy who doesn’t know the offense?
I think kind of, depending on the situations will determine how you use him. Either way, he knows the plays. He’ll take whatever he has on the playbook and go out there and learn it because there’s a chance that he may have to go out there and make plays. He’s done that before in this league and nobody would be surprised if he was able to go out there and continue to do what he’s capable of doing. I don’t want to say the majority of the guys, but we have been following him along his career anyway because we still have some familiar faces in this locker room. Either way, he was a friend and everybody followed him.

Is this role and this situation something you’ve just gotten used to?
You never get used to it because it changes every day. It’s not something that you can say, “I’m used to this” or “I’m used to that.” My description is backup and whether that’s the second backup or the third backup, if you’re number is called upon, you have to be ready to play because you never know how a season is going to play out.

Is it comforting to know that you’re the starter and don’t have to look over your shoulder and will be allowed to stay in the game even if you are hurting?
Any time you start a game you want to finish and that’s the competitor that’s in any quarterback out there. When you have that and you know that as long as you’re not doing anything to hurt the team and you can go out there and do you your job, you’re going to want to stay out there and that’s something that you love to have with a coach and making sure that you don’t have to look over your shoulder.

Do you think Coach Tomlin has proven that?
He’s done that with every quarterback who has been in there, and that’s including Ben [Roethlisberger].

Re: Breaking your hand against Cleveland after being in the midst of having a good game against them:
Yeah, that was 2005. [Laughs] They’ve changed coaches, they’ve changed coordinators so it’s really hard to say they have all the same people because they don’t. You can always say you’re familiar with division opponents, but in this case you don’t know what they’re going to do because we have a new offense and you have to see how the game unfolds.

Re: Being 5-2 as a starter for the Steelers:
I’d love to be undefeated. Either way, you just continue to go on and whenever your number is called you just go out there and try to do your job. Right now, I’m that guy and there’s no telling how long I’ll have this position, it could be one week, it could be two or three. I don’t know. But either way, you just go week to week and not worry about what’s going to happen after the fact. We need to focus on Cleveland and that’s what I’m doing right now.

Some believe you should have been the backup ahead of Byron Leftwich before the season started. Do you worry about that or think you should have got a chance before he did?
That’s not my decision. Ultimately, whenever they’re putting the roster together, decisions are made and you have to deal with it. If you can’t control it, don’t worry about it and that’s what I’ve done.

Do you still get excited when you’re going to start?
You do get excited and you start to kind of get those butterflies running through but you try to control them because we’re still far enough away from the game that you don’t want to use up all of your energy right now. That’s something that over the years I still get excited about because these opportunities don’t come much and right now I have another one.

Does it seem like things always come back to you starting? It’s happened in quite a few seasons.
Well, there’s times that it didn’t happen and didn’t come my way. Either way, you just have to be ready and every time, it’s been under different circumstances where I was starting at the end of the season when the season was already won. We won the division and I had to play. Versus last year, where you had to come in and keep the ship right so we could still try and win the division towards the end of the season. Each year is different and each year you kind of seize the moment.

Did you feel like this training camp was one of your better camps?
I did. I went out there, obviously my body felt great and you still have to go out there and prove that you can do it. Not only are you doing that with the head coach and general manager, but you’re still proving that to the players because they are the ones watching you in August. You want to make sure, that if you have to step in they believe that you can get the job done.

Do you feel like a guy that’s going to be 38 in a couple weeks?
No, because you just reminded me. [Laughs] I’m doing it for all the 38-year olds.

After your start last year, did you feel like a guy who was older? Did it take a little longer to heal up?
It’s hard to know. You just know at this age, you spend a lot of time in the ice tub and try not to get that feeling. The good thing is, I’m not the only person in this locker room that has to feel that way. We have a bunch of 30-year olds on this team so don’t try to point it in my direction. [Laughs]

Is your arm strength still there from when you were a starter in Detroit and do you still feel like you can make the throws?
No, it was 15 years ago. [Laughs] Right now, I’m capable of going out there and I feel like I can make every throw. You don’t get evaluated today. You got evaluated in OTAs, the offseason and games to make sure that you are able to be in this position if you are called upon. I felt that I’ve done that and I think they’ve done the evaluation and I think that’s why I made this team.

Do you think this offense plays to your strengths?
I do. This is something that, going from August and the last time being in this offense and having a chance to input what the game plan is going to look like, now I have some familiarity as far as what we did in August versus now. I think as this week goes by, it will be better answered toward the end of the week.

Re: Making your first start of the season in an important road game:
I think the biggest thing is making sure that from a timing standpoint, you’re understanding the play clock and having it register in your helmet and being able to spit the verbiage out in the huddle and get to the line of scrimmage in an ample amount of time. You have to be able to go up there and make the checks if needed. That will probably be the biggest difference from there to practice because you can’t simulate that. And that’s with every quarterback, you just can’t simulate it.

Is this offense one where a guy can come in and pick it up right away?
It depends on who that guy is. There’s no doubt that he can come in here and do that. He’s not a rookie and I think that’s something that, assuming that we’re both talking about Plaxico in this case, I think when you look at it for him, he’s played and he’s won in this league. He knows the speed of the game. It’s not going to be new to him. It’s just a matter of making sure that he can break the huddle, get lined up and go out there and play without thinking about it, which we all know he is capable of doing.

Is there any extra urgency with starting this divisional game on the road?
There’s always urgency. No matter what the situation is, all the way back to ’07 was the only time the game didn’t mean much because the division was already clinched, but any time other than that when I’ve had to step in, we still had to win the game because something was at stake. At this point, we still have a chance to win the division. We still have to keep up with everybody else at this point. But we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. That’s why we have to go up there and we have to figure out a way no matter what, to get this one in Cleveland.

Are you going to wear extra rib pads?
I’m going to wear what I wear. [Laughs]

Is there any sort of extra importance of staying healthy because of the other injuries at the quarterback position and having a new backup?
I’ve been in this situation in 2010 where there was only two quarterbacks at Tennessee and Dennis [Dixon] goes down in the first quarter and I had to go out there and I was the only quarterback for the next two and a half weeks. When you ask that question, you just have to go out there and play. You’re looking at it from a rib injury stand point, I think that it’s something that you don’t know how it’s going to happen because both injuries occurred differently. I know one had equipment on. I’m not even sure if the other one had equipment on. That’s something that people are really not familiar with when talking about the quarterback. You’re always exposed and no matter if you have pads on or not, if you get hit with your arm in the throwing position like that, pads can’t protect it.

What are you expecting from Burress?
Big plays. I know he’s going to be excited and we’re probably going to have to calm him down because he gets to throw the uniform back on, a Steelers uniform. For him, I’m sure he’s going to have a lot of emotions because he’s come full circle. This is the place I know he didn’t want to leave when he first left. The business took him away from us and he’s coming back. I’m just going to have to worry about calming him down because I know he’s going to be excited and I know he’s capable of making plays. It’ll be exciting to get him out there and get him a catch and get him in the endzone. You just don’t know how the emotions are going to fly for him. He’s going to come in and everybody believes in him and that’s why he’s here.

Did you and Burress stay in touch?
We talked over the years. When I got here, he was young. I only had a couple years with him. When you come in here like that, I was new to the team and learning different personalities as I went along. You had people who were with each other more than others and when you look at him, you talk about a 23, 24, 25 year old guy, to coming back in his early 30’s. You mature and learn how the game goes on the longer you’re in this league. At the end of it, you just appreciate the work that it takes to get it done and have longevity in this league.

Re: How Burress will be used:
One of the questions is going to be, “How do you use him?”  We have to figure that out. We don’t know how we’re going to use him yet. So, how can somebody else know how you’re going to go out there and defend him because he is such a threat? He has his height and he’s capable of playing. How do you dictate that? Do you go back and watch Jets film, Giants film? Do you go all the way back to when he played here? You don’t know how he’s going to do. But every system is different for him to go out there and compete. I’m excited to learn how that answer as we go along.

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Hoyer gets right to work with Steelers

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 21, 2012 – 8:08 pm

A few weeks ago Brian Hoyer was throwing passes to kids at his former school, St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio.

Today, he was at practice throwing to his new Steelers’ teammates.

“It’s a step up in talent level, but they were good players,” said Hoyer. “They just lost their regional finals. It worked out for me, not them, because I wasn’t going to have anyone to throw to this week besides my dad and father-in-law. I am glad to be here.”

Hoyer spent the last three seasons as a back-up quarterback with the New England Patriots, before being waived in August. He signed with the Steelers on Tuesday, happy to be back playing again.

“It’s something I have been waiting 11 weeks for,” said Hoyer. “When I knew I had the opportunity to come out here and work I wanted to take advantage of it. Now that I am here I want to submerse myself in the system and learn as much as I can before Sunday and just go from there.”

Hoyer isn’t being asked to learn the entire playbook overnight, instead he is being given this week’s game plan so he is prepared as Charlie Batch’s back-up this week against the Browns.

“I am trying to get as much knowledge as I can with the limited time I have,” said Hoyer. “At this time it’s game-planning. I am not trying to learn stuff that is not in the game plan, which would be a waste of time. I have the game plan and am going to go from there and learn what is going to be called on Sunday.”

Hoyer, who played in 13 games in three seasons, said that despite the different terminology it’s basically the same thing he has been doing since he started playing football.

“I am going to be as ready as I can,” said Hoyer. “There is limited time and reps, you have to study as much as you can and be ready to do whatever I can. I am concerned with learning as much as I can and be ready to step in if needed.”

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DeCastro feels good after practicing

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 21, 2012 – 4:15 pm

Guard David DeCastro, who is on injured reserve/designated for return, returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since he injured his knee against the Buffalo Bills in the preseason.

DeCastro said it felt good running and was happy to be back in football mode.
“It went well,” said DeCastro after practice. “I feel like it’s been a long, long time. I have been doing stuff with the assistant strength coach, football stuff but nothing like going against NFL players.”

The Steelers have 21 days from now to determine if DeCastro will be activated or placed on injured reserve, but he has not placed any timetable on a return or if he will be back on the field this season.

“I am just trying to come out every day and get better, get healthier,” said DeCastro. “There is some room to improve and get strength back and endurance. I didn’t have any expectations. I just was going in to see how it felt and it felt strong.

“I am going to control what I can control. I want to get healthier and stronger and get myself in the best position to play if I need to. I think just being healthy and in good shape says a lot.”

While DeCastro did practice on Wednesday, six others didn’t including WR Jerricho Cotchery (ribs), T Marcus Gilbert (ankle), DE Evander Hood (back), QB Byron Leftwich (ribs), S Troy Polamalu (calf), and QB Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder). Receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) was limited in practice while S Will Allen (shoulder), RB Isaac Redman (concussion), and LB Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) were full participants.

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Plenty to be thankful for

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 21, 2012 – 2:46 pm

Steelers’ players have plenty to be thankful for, and shared what they are most thankful for.

LaMarr Woodley
“I am thankful for family, friends and having a healthy life.”

Max Starks
“I am thankful for my family. That is first and foremost. They gave me the tools, morals and ethics to be in the position to give back and have the heart to want to give.”

Charlie Batch
“I am thankful to be around my family on Thanksgiving where a lot of people are not. We always open our home to people on the team on Thanksgiving who can’t be with their family to make it a more memorable holiday season. A lot of people don’t realize we don’t get holidays off so people are away from their families.”

Drew Butler
“I am most thankful for the new family that brought me in here in Pittsburgh. The Steelers organization is fantastic, the front office, the coaches, the staff, and the players. It’s a close knit family here and it reminds me of what it is like at home. I am thankful they brought me in with open arms and it’s been a good relationship so far.”

Maurkice Pouncey
“I am thankful for my parents, my little girl, my fiancé, my sisters and brother and my football career.”

John Malecki
“For having such great friends and family and the support they give me in everything I do in life. You really learn to appreciate it once you leave the city and come back. It’s been a blessing for me to be able to stay around Pittsburgh for most of my life. I always have mom and dad to lean on.

Greg Warren
“I am thankful to be in a position to give back to people who support us in everything we do. We like to be able to show our thanks and appreciation for that.”

Chris Rainey
“I am thankful for family, friends, teachers, and coaches. I am thankful for everybody who has been there for me. I am always thankful.”

Kelvin Beachum
“I am thankful for being alive. That is a great thing to be thankful for. Being able to use the platform I have to impact other people is something I wouldn’t be able to do it if I wasn’t alive.”

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