The Free-agent Game Has Changed

Mike Prisuta watched Plaxico Burress come and go and offers up the following insights about the first two days of workouts by the Steelers.

Images and observations from St. Vincent …

The Steelers' initial interest in Plaxico Burress went about as far as a one-year deal for the veteran minimum, with-incentives. They've since become willing to up the ante.

It's become obvious Burress will command much more than that and the Steelers are still interested.

"He's interested, his agent is interested and we're certainly interested," Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert said on Saturday at St. Vincent College, when the Steelers hosted Burress for breakfast, a walk-through, and for lunch.

Colbert was sitting at the same table where two days earlier Mike Tomlin had said the Steelers don't discuss free agents.

Burress visited with James Farrior, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery during lunch. One of the players lobbying Burress said Burress told them the 49ers and Jets are also in the mix.

Colbert said the Steelers will continue pondering their options with Burress and other potential big-name free agents that might become available. If they decide they want such a player badly enough they'll make it work under the salary cap.

"If we make some significant additions there could be more terminations," Colbert said.

Welcome to the new world order.

* After the first walk-through, non-practice, what-have-you of camp on Friday morning, Aaron Smith hit the blocking sled.

Smith did so for the benefit of Ziggy Hood, Ty Boyle (DE, North Dakota), Miguel Chavis (DE, Clemson) and Sunny Harris. The sled would be hit, and then Smith would explain to the wide-eyed youngsters how he did it and why he did it.

This went on for 10 or 15 minutes.

Thirteen training camps and three Super Bowls later Smith is still as selfless as they come.

* Miguel Chavis? Isn't he a left-hander for the White Sox?

* When I asked defensive line coach John Mitchell if Smith was still a starter, Mitchell looked at me as if I had three heads.

* Mitch had a hard time understanding why such a question would even be asked.

* Rain forced the Steelers from the practice field into a tent and ultimately the locker room on Friday afternoon, much to Tomlin's disgust. While his team was under cover, Tomlin paced in front of the tent liked a caged lion and sought weather updates from wherever and whomever they could be gleaned.

The guy wears black in the sweltering sun and he doesn't care if he gets wet. What he cares about is playin' ball when it's time to play ball.

* Not that anyone cares, but James Harrison's media apology for his Men's Journal meltdown would have come off as much more sincere had it been delivered on the first day of camp rather than the second, and before Tomlin had publicly scolded Harrison rather than after.

* As a result of some inconvenient CBA restrictions, and Chris Kemoeatu's knee injury, the first-team offensive line lined up as follows on Friday:

LT Kyle Jolly, LG Keith Williams, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG Ramon Foster, RT Chris Scott.

That voice you hear is Jonathan Scott breaking into a hearty chorus of "How Do You Like Me Now?"

* Gone But Not Forgotten: Max Starks and Flozell Adams.

I'm still not convinced Starks won't return to play left tackle and relegate Jonathan Scott back to a swing-tackle, sixth-man role while the Steelers keep left tackle warm for Marcus Gilbert.

As for Adams, he was only here for one season and yet offensive line coach Sean Kugler referred to Adams, along with Starks, as players who "earned the right to be Steelers for life."

Such was the nature of how Adams' contributions were received a year ago.

* As for those on the way in (potentially), I'm told RB John Clay (Wisconsin), TE Weslye Saunders (South Carolina) and DT Anthony Gray (Southern Mississippi) have the best shots at becoming this year's non-drafted rookie success story.

You can add DT Corbin Bryant of Northwestern, whose addition to the roster was announced Saturday, to that list.

* If the name Aaron Bates (P, Michigan State) sounds familiar it's because you're a college football junkie. Bates is the guy who threw the touchdown pass on the much-replayed fake field goal in overtime last September when Michigan State beat Notre Dame (Bates was the holder).

The play of the year in college football? It was for me.

* Overheard on the practice field:

"Get the ball above your waist." -- Montgomery to WR Antonio Brown on a punt return.

"Everybody run to the football." -- Tomlin to the defense.


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