Burress will be back in 2013. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Making Sense of the Larry Foote & Plaxico Burress Signings

I for one assumed that Pittsburgh’s Front Office would try to make their “aging” and “rebuilding” team “younger” and “cheaper” over the next few months.

I guess that idea went out the window earlier today as the Steelers re-signed soon-to-be 33 year old Larry Foote and the soon-to-be 36 year-old Plaxico Burress.

While I am not exactly a “fan” of either move, I can at least understand why each one was made by Pittsburgh’s brass.

The re-upping of Burress actually provides the franchise with some added depth at a position which could sorely stand to use more.  Mike Wallace has finally left town, and the Steelers have Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery as the only proven players at Wide Receiver.

Granted, I hope that the Steelers are able to target a Wide Receiver early in this April’s Draft (DeAndre Hopkins, Justin Hunter, Keenan Allen).  But even if the Steelers draft a Wide Receiver in Round 1 or Round 2, most Rookie pass-catchers tend to go through a year or two of “growing pains” as they adjust to new coverages and the physicality of the sport at the professional level.  Burress’ presence, at least in 2013, should allow for the young player to be brought along at their own pace and find their niche in Boss Todd’s Offense.  Plus, what better mentor/cautionary tale for the youngster to learn from than a guy who has seen such incredible highs and horrible lows as a professional football player like Plaxico?

The biggest reason however why I like the Burress signing is because he possesses what no other Wide Receiver on the Steelers’ roster does: SIZE.  At 6’5”, Plaxico’s frame is perfect for down-field throws, and it still gives him a sizable height advantage over any Defensive Back in the entire N.F.L..  Despite the fact that his speed is no longer what it once was, Burress can still give Ben Roethlisberger a large target to find all over the field, particularly in the Red Zone.

Remember readers, Heath Miller is coming off of a knee injury, so Pittsburgh’s Offense could stand to use a competent, and large Red Zone threat if and when their Pro Bowl Tight End is sidelined.  Brown, Sanders, and Cotchery are nowhere near as physically imposing as Burress, and Plaxico’s size could come in handy when Pittsburgh’s Offense finds themselves inside the 20’s, or Big Ben wants to call a Fade route.

At least to me, the projected one-year, non-guaranteed deal to re-up Burress is a heady “low-risk, medium-reward” type of move that has the potential to help Pittsburgh’s Offense in some key areas.  Although I’ve warmed to the idea of Plaxico coming back, I cannot say the same for Larry Foote and the 3-year deal he signed earlier today.

Foote did not play well in pass-coverage last year. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Do not get me wrong, I totally understand why the move was made in the first place: The Steelers have ZERO depth at Inside Linebacker.

Behind Lawrence Timmons and Foote, the cupboard is essentially bare in terms of players on the depth chart.  As it stands, Marshall McFadden, Brian Rolle, and Kion Wilson are the Steelers’ options at Inside Linebacker.  Sure, I guess that I could include now-UFA Stevenson Sylvester and Sean Spence (and his mangled leg) as possibilities.  Yet I cannot see either player making any sort of future contributions with the franchise.

I understand that Foote had a solid year last year on the stat-sheet, and he led the team in Tackles (113), recorded 4.0 Sacks, forced 2 fumbles, and recovered 2 more during the 2012 campaign.  Yet the veteran Linebacker had plenty of issues in pass-coverage, and was a liability on 3rd Downs unless he was blitzing through the A-Gap.

I understand that Foote has a large amount of experience under his belt, and the team has really no other option to turn to at the moment.  But did the Steelers’ brass really need to re-sign the veteran to a 3-year deal?

I know I know, all of the Foote supporters will point to how the veteran has the “best understanding” of how Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau’s “complicated” scheme works.  Nevertheless, I must ask:

 

  • What good does an understanding of LeBeau’s complex scheme do if Foote himself is a 2-Down player who provides little to no value whatsoever in pass-coverage or against athletic Offensive Linemen?

 

I for one would rather see the Steelers gamble on Timmons at the “Buck” spot this year, and then let the four aforementioned options (3 players on roster, 1 Rookie) above duke it out to win the “Mack” job beside him.  Timmons would be able to step into a “leadership” role on the Defense, while the younger players receive their own shots to “learn by doing” as the franchise continues to rebuild.

With this deal, the  Steelers seem to believe that the soon-to-be 33 year old Foote will stay healthy and play as effectively as he did last year for the team.  My hope is that Foote’s contract is front-loaded like it is because the team is set to draft an Inside Linebacker high this April.  Thus, the veteran will get a nice chunk of change, and the team can part ways with him rather easily/inexpensively if a young player can step up by 2014 or 2015.  Regardless of what I think though, the deal is done, and the Steelers have Foote signed to a deal through the 2015 season.

I for one am intrigued to see how the rest of Pittsburgh’s offseason plays out, especially because they were so busy on Day 1.

 

 

Readers:  Do you agree with the moves?  Why or why not?

 

Stats Courtesy of: Pro-Football Reference and ESPN.com

 

Players Contract Info. Provided By: Spotrac.com

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Tags: 2013 Free Agency Larry Foote Pittsburgh Steelers Plaxico Burress

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