Steelers add veterans Burress, Hoyer

PFW staff

With their offense banged up, the Steelers went to a former star receiver for help.

Pittsburgh signed veteran free-agent WR Plaxico Burress on Tuesday, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Burress, 35, began his NFL career with the Steelers in 2000 and spent five years in Pittsburgh. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2001-02 and left the Steelers with 22 touchdown catches.

Last season, Burress returned to football for the first time since 2008 after a prison sentence, and had 45 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns for the Jets.

Steelers WR Antonio Brown has missed the last two games (ankle) and WR Jerricho Cotchery suffered multiple rib fractures in Sunday night’s loss to the Ravens.

Pittsburgh also signed former Patriots QB Brian Hoyer to serve as Charlie Batch’s backup this week when the Steelers take on the Browns. Batch takes over for Byron Leftwich, who, like Cotchery, has rib fractures. Mike Tomlin said that Ben Roethlisberger is doubtful.

Hoyer was Tom Brady’s backup in New England the past three seasons before being released in September. He has appeared in 13 games in his career and has one touchdown pass and one interception.

To make room for Burress and Hoyer, the Steelers cut RB Baron Batch and LB Marshall McFadden. 

The way we see it

Burress gives the Steelers a veteran outside receiver, which will allow them to use more multi-WR packages if needed on Sunday at Cleveland. Before adding Burress, the Steelers' top three receivers, if Antonio Brown (ankle) joined Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) on the sideline, would have been Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and the inexperienced David Gilreath.

If nothing else, Burress adds to the Steelers' schematic flexibility and perhaps gives them a little bit of a boost in the red zone. However, Wallace, Sanders and TE Heath Miller all figure to be bigger parts of the passing game than Burress under ideal circumstances. That said, if the Steelers have to keep their tight ends in to block more often with Batch under center and the Browns coming off a seven-sack game, Burress could be targeted more than expected.

Hoyer was something of a surprise cut by New England this summer, though the Patriots did like him enough to keep him ahead of Ryan Mallett on the depth chart a season ago. With no healthy quarterbacks on the roster or practice squad other than Batch, this was a necessary signing for Pittsburgh.