PITTSBURGH – Plaxico Burress didn’t even have to jump to pull in the pass from Charlie Batch. He just stood behind 5-foot-10 practice squad cornerback Josh Victorian about 15 yards down the sideline and plucked it from behind.
The catch caused a buzz from the coaches and players, who were probably giving thanks for the opportunity to have an experienced 6-foot-5 wide receiver walk into their midst in time for the stretch run.
Likewise, Burress, a 35-year-old who caught 45 passes for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns last season, and has inexplicably been left off NFL rosters for 11 weeks this season, is thankful to return to his old team, and soon, he hopes, his old quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
The two played together in Roethlisberger’s rookie season and Burress caught 35 passes for 698 yards (19.9 avg.) and 5 touchdowns, with another touchdown in the postseason.
The two giants enjoyed a chemistry that was split up by free agency, even though Roethlisberger tried to persuade the front office to re-sign Burress.
“The year we played we had a pretty good relationship outside of football,” said Burress. “Those are some of the things a lot of people don’t know. His first Thanksgiving here, we spent it together. It’s ironic that [eight] years later I’m back on Thanksgiving when his first Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh we ate together. You sit down and say ‘Wow.’ You cherish things like that. Those are things you can’t get back.
“We remained good friends throughout the years. I’ve been a great supporter of his, and he likewise with me. We’re just having fun, man, and we’re just going to enjoy.”
Burress said Roethlisberger was the first player he saw when he reported to the Steelers’ practice facility Tuesday after he signed with the team.
“I think that says a lot about him,” Burress said. “We’ve remained in contact over the years. You can’t say enough about what he’s accomplished in this league already. He’s not finished; I’m not finished. We’ll see if we can go do it again.”
Speaking of Roethlisberger, the injured quarterback was out of the sling he’d been wearing since spraining the S-C joint in his shoulder/sternum. He didn’t have time to talk to reporters, but went to his locker and pulled his t-shirt up over his head and arms without any obvious discomfort.
Roethlisberger won’t play this week, and remains a big question mark the following week at Baltimore.
The same description would fit safety Troy Polamalu, who ran yesterday for the first time and nodded optimistically about returning to the playing field some time soon.
“Not this week,” Polamalu said with a wide smile. “Hopefully it will be soon.”
As for the rest of the injury report, Antonio Brown practiced in a limited capacity, but Jerricho Cotchery, Marcus Gilbert, Ziggy Hood and Byron Leftwich missed practice along with Polamalu and Roethlisberger.
First-round pick David DeCastro said he hasn’t missed this much time with an injury since he sat out four weeks in high school, “and that wasn’t even during the season.”
DeCastro has been on injured reserve since injuring his right knee Aug. 25 against the Buffalo Bills in the Steelers’ third preseason game.
He was designated for return at the time he was placed on injured reserve, and the new NFL rule says that the Steelers have 21 days to activate DeCastro once he begins practicing.
That clock started yesterday when DeCastro worked primarily with the scout team but also took two reps at right guard with the first team when new quarterback Brian Hoyer was also given his first-team snaps in place of this week’s starter Charlie Batch.
“It felt really good,” said DeCastro.
He added that he didn’t notice any pain or hindrance when he ran, but said he has no timetable for activation.
“I’m just trying to come out every day and get better, get healthier,” he said. “There’s definitely some room to improve. I need to get my strength back, endurance.”
(Read the transcript of the Plaxico Burress interview on our message board.)