Burress has the answers

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b>Steelers WR Plaxico Burress opened the season with a pair of 100-yard receiving games, but hasn't hit the plateau since. All he's hit is a wall. <br><br> A slump that began after the bye week has resulted in two 6-yard performances in the last three games. Burress hit rock bottom last Sunday after a second dropped pass brought a flood of boos from the home crowd.

The slump seemed to start against the St. Louis Rams when he dropped a deep pass. He also dropped two critical throws against Seattle, didn't square his shoulders to the line on the last drive against the Seahawks, and dropped another couple of passes against Arizona, including one in the end zone.

During that time, Burress criticized the team's play calling because he's not getting the ball as often as he'd like, and Burress is also having problems with officials.

After criticizing them last week for allowing too much contact with the ball in flight, Burress was called for an early offensive pass interference against Arizona, which could be interpreted as reciprocation.

The list of mistakes goes on, but the fact of the matter is the Steelers' No. 4 receiver, street free agent Chris Doering, has caught as many touchdown passes as Burress, a former No. 1 draft pick. Both have one touchdown catch this season.

Since Burress caught 13 passes for 231 yards (17.8 average) in the first two games of the season, he's caught 22 passes for 286 yards (13 avg.) in the last seven.

A shoulder problem may have something to do with his most recent problems. Burress injured his right shoulder while diving for a pass in the end zone against Seattle. He said he'll be "60 percent better" this week, or "90 percent" healthy. He was then asked if the Monday night stage would be a time for him to prove something to football fans.

"Not for me," Burress said. "It's a good time to see what type of person you are. It's a good time to see what you're made of, character-wise, confidence-wise, you know, put everything behind you and just release all disappointment and just go out and play hard."

How confident is the big guy?

"You'll see," he said. "I haven't lost confidence in myself. I'm here for a reason. If I couldn't play my position, couldn't do my job, I wouldn't be there."

Burress was drafted with the eighth pick of the 2000 draft instead of quarterback Chad Pennington, and Steelers fans remember that fact with every mistake Burress makes. But to his credit, Burress doesn't make excuses. Last Sunday, a knee-high fastball from quarterback Tommy Maddox bounced off Burress' hands in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line.

While the pass was low and thrown with extra velocity, Burress didn't blame anyone but himself.

"I should've come up with it," he said. "I never put blame on a quarterback or anybody else. Those are plays I can make and I've made them before and there's no reason why I shouldn't have made it. When I don't do as well as I should have, I always say that. I should've come up with the ball but it didn't happen that way."

So, why all the drops this season?

"It's just trying to get into a rhythm," he said. "I really haven't been in a rhythm since the first game of the season. It's just been interrupted. Somehow you try to get that rhythm back and get into a flow and get back to those spots where Tommy thinks I'm going to be at. This is all a matter of timing and getting back into rhythm, getting your steps back down and going out and not even thinking about it, just get to playing football like we were last year. It was just like breathing. We were out there hitting, hitting, hitting. Now it's been just hit, miss, hit, miss, hit, miss. You just want to get back into that rhythm."

Does he still feel he needs to see the ball more often?

"There's no question," Burress said. "When you get the ball early and you get hit, you get into the game a little faster. Every offensive player wants to get into the game faster. Once you get into the game and you're a little more relaxed, you're a little more comfortable, then you can go out and just play without thinking and just react."

Is that the solution to the slump?

"I'm just going to go out and play hard," he said. "And I'm going to stop trying to be so passive going to the football."

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