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Steelers sign WR Plaxico Burress


Steelers sign WR Plaxico Burress

PITTSBURGH (AP) Plaxico Burress is back where he once belonged.

The Pittsburgh Steelers brought back the veteran wide receiver on Tuesday to provide depth at a position decimated by injuries while hoping there's enough gas left in the 35-year-old's tank to give the offense an added dimension near the goal line.

Burress impressed Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert during a brief workout early Tuesday even though he hasn't played since the end of the 2011 season as a member of the New York Jets.

``He's in really good physical condition based on the workout I just saw,'' Tomlin said. ``He's got very good body control for a big man. He can drop his weight at break points and obviously he's no stranger to football.''

The Steelers (6-4) are in need of healthy bodies at wide receiver after Jerricho Cotchery fractured his ribs late in Sunday night's 13-10 loss to Baltimore. Antonio Brown has missed the last two games due to an ankle injury and Tomlin listed Brown as questionable for Sunday's game against Cleveland (2-8).

The 6-foot-5 Burress spent his first five seasons in the NFL with the Steelers, who selected him with the eighth overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft. He moved on to the New York Giants in 2005 and caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the 2008 Super Bowl before his career derailed after accidentally shooting himself in a New York nightclub, leading to a gun charge that resulted in a 20-month prison sentence.

Pittsburgh courted Burress when he returned to the league last summer, though Burress opted for a more lucrative $3 million offer from the New York Jets. Though he lacked the explosion that made him one of the better deep threats in the league during his prime, Burress caught 45 passes for 612 yards and tied for the team lead with eight touchdown receptions.

The Jets opted not to bring him back, however, and Burress has spent most of the last year looking for a job. He's finally got one on a team trying to keep its playoff chances afloat without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is nursing a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated first rib.

Roethlisberger underwent additional testing on Tuesday, with encouraging results, though he will almost certainly miss his second straight start. Second stringer Byron Leftwich is also out after fracturing his ribs against the Ravens.

Enter Charlie Batch.

The seemingly ageless 37-year-old will fill in yet again on Sunday. Batch is 5-2 while subbing for Roethlisberger over the last decade, including a tidy 208-yard performance in a 27-0 victory over St. Louis last December.

The Steelers signed former New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer as insurance. Hoyer spent three seasons backing up Tom Brady with the Patriots before being released at the end of training camp in August.

Batch lacks Roethlisberger's mobility or Leftwich's big-time arm, but his quick release should fit in well with offensive coordinator Todd Haley's short passing game. Tomlin doesn't expect Haley to give the playbook an overhaul to accommodate Batch.

``The changes will be subtle and they will be made with an emphasis geared toward maximizing his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses,'' Tomlin said. ``We've got a great deal of confidence in Charlie.''

Maybe it's because Batch - and the Steelers - have been here before.

When Roethlisberger was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy, Batch stepped in and led Pittsburgh to a pair of victories after original substitute Dennis Dixon went down with a knee injury. He did the same last year against the Rams after Roethlisberger opted to rest a busted ankle.

``One thing I can say about this quarterback situation is, as uncomfortable as it may be, it's not something we're foreign too,'' Tomlin said. ``(The backups) do a great job of rallying and answering the bell.''

It's something the Steelers believe Burress can do. If Brown can't play, Burress' workload could be pretty heavy for a guy who hasn't seen a live snap since New Year's Day. The Steelers only have three healthy receivers on the roster in Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and little-used David Gilreath.

Pittsburgh's passing game has thrived under Haley this season, with Roethlisberger on pace for career-highs in attempts, completions, completion percentage and touchdowns before going down. The only thing the Steelers lack is a receiver who presents a mismatch in the red zone, a role Burress can fill nicely.

Batch and Burress aren't the only familiar faces who could return this weekend.

Safety Troy Polamalu - out since Oct. 4 with a right calf injury - will run on Wednesday and Tomlin did not immediately rule him out. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who is rehabbing from ligament damage to his ankle, has been cleared for individual work thought it's uncertain when he will be cleared to practice.


NOTES: To make room for Burress and Hoyer, the Steelers released DB Marshall McFadden and RB Baron Batch ... Tomlin said he doesn't believe the injuries to Cotchery or Leftwich are season ending, adding he believes Leftwich fractured the ribs while getting sacked in the second half against the Ravens ... RB Isaac Redman, who left the Ravens game with a concussion, has responded well to testing and should practice this week.


Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP


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Ravens' Lardarius Webb: 'Winning football' comes down to little things

Ravens' Lardarius Webb: 'Winning football' comes down to little things

Safety Lardarius Webb sat at his locker at MetLife Stadium on Sunday digesting the Ravens fourth straight loss and lamenting all the things the Ravens are not doing in order to, in the words of coach John Harbaugh, play "winning football."

"It's making the tackle," Webb said, "getting off the field on third down when you're supposed to. When you make a turnover, not turning it back over."

"It's a lot of little things. We can't do those things to give them the edge."

Webb is the fifth-longest tenured Raven and one of the veteran leaders of this team. And with hints of gray in his sideburns and his beard, and with a gimpy hamstring that knocked him out of the Jets game, Webb, 31, has shown his age at times this year.

In each of the last two losses, a speedy receiver turned a short catch into a long touchdown, with the receiver each time blowing by Webb -- the last line of defense at free safety -- and outrunning him to the end zone.

First it was Odell Beckham going 66 yards with the game-winning score for the Giants in the final two minutes. Then this past week, Quincy Enunwa turned a seemingly harmelss 10-yard pass into a 69-yard touchdown.

"We can't give them big plays," Webb said. "Can't miss tackles."

Through seven games, Webb has 19 tackles and one pass breakup.

Webb's transition from cornerback to safety was one of the major defensive storylines coming into the season,  and secondary coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged that it has been an uneven season for the veteran.

"He has had some good moments, and there are some moments where I’m sure he would be the first to tell you he would like to have another chance at," Frazier said after Tuesday's bye week practice. "But he has done a lot of good things. I think it was a good move for him.

"He has a lot of range and a lot of athletic ability as well. He is still learning as he is going through the process. ... I think overall, he has done a good job at the position. I think he will get better as the season goes on."

MORE RAVENS: Harbaugh defends Flacco: 'I'm a Joe Flacco guy'

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Ravens snap count leaders like Eric Weddle, Mike Wallace can use bye week

Ravens snap count leaders like Eric Weddle, Mike Wallace can use bye week

The Ravens (3-4) are off until next week, using this weekend’s bye to get healthier and refreshed, in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Some players should be more fatigued than others. Here are the six Ravens who have played at least 400 snaps:

QB Joe Flacco – 511 snaps

Flacco played through a sore shoulder in Week 7, and his surgically-repaired knee hasn’t been an issue. Now the Ravens just need Flacco to play better.

“I feel good - just as you would expect seven games into a season,” said Flacco. “I don’t think about it (his knee) at all when I am out there. I think there are times when I say, ‘Oh man, I took a hit right there in the knee.’ But I think it has held up well, and I am not worried about it while I am out there.”

C Jeremy Zuttah – 510 snaps

Zuttah has managed to stay healthy all season, a rarity for a Ravens offensive lineman. The Ravens are going to need a healthy offensive line, Zuttah included, to get their anemic running game going, and to protect Flacco better.

S Eric Weddle - 436 snaps

Weddle remaining healthy is a key to the second half of the season. He has brought stability to a secondary that depends on him for leadership.

ILB Zach Orr - 433 snaps

Nobody wonders anymore if Orr can handle being a starting linebacker. He leads the team in tackles and his best football should be ahead of him.

LG Alex Lewis - 412 snaps

Lewis has been extremely valuable as a rookie, starting the season at left guard, and switching to left tackle when fellow rookie Ronnie Stanley (foot) went down. With Stanley and Lewis, one bright spot this season is that the Ravens have found their left side of the offensive line for years to come.

WR Mike Wallace - 407 snaps

Wallace leads the Ravens in both receiving yards (490) and touchdown catches (three). Any talk about Wallace being washed up, after subpar seasons with the Vikings and Dolphins, has been silenced.

“He has been a great addition to the Ravens’ organization,” said Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram. “We studied the tape, and I think everybody in the building knew he was still a good football player.”

MORE RAVENS: Harbaugh defends Flacco: 'I'm a Joe Flacco guy'