Steelers Burress Ready To Test Free Agency

Plaxico Burress' days in Pittsburgh seemingly are over. <br><br>Although the Steelers and Burress' agent have said they want to keep the doors open for the big wide receiver to return, it's extremely unlikely.

Burress wants two things the Steelers cannot give enough to him -- money and pass receptions.

Pittsburgh passed on making him their franchise player and having him count $7,768,000 against their salary cap. The Steelers also are not willing to pay

Burress the kind of money he'll be seeking as an unrestricted free agent.

"It's not because they don't want Plax, it's more financial," said Michael Harrison, Burress' agent. "That's a lot of money to tie them under now. It's near impossible."

Burress expects a signing bonus of more than $10 million. The Steelers have never paid one that high and they are not about to start with Burress, who has been inconsistent through the years. He's never made a Pro Bowl and has never led his own team in receiving. He drops too many passes, does not run well after the catch and falls down too often.

The Steelers have promised to make Hines Ward a priority this year. Ward has one year left on his contract but there is no way they could pay both him and Burress big money. Ward has made four straight Pro Bowls and is on his way to setting every Steelers receiving record.

Antwaan Randle El will move into Burress' spot at split end next season, unless the team drafts a speed receiver they believe can play the position. They will not pursue a top-line receiver in free agency.

Burress missed four games last season because of an injury and caught 35 passes for 698 yards, his lowest totals since his rookie season in 2000. His statistics declined the past two seasons. He caught 60 passes for 860 yards in 2003 after topping 1,000 yards the two previous seasons, including his career high of 1,325 yards and 78 receptions in 2002.

"Right now our intentions are to hit the market, see what's out there for Plaxico, what's a great situation for him and keep our ears open with Pittsburgh." -- Michael Harrison, Burress' agent.

  • Quarterback Tommy Maddox is scheduled to serve as a guest analyst Sunday for NBC-TV's broadcasts of the Arena Football League games that day. He was to join Al Trautwig and Glenn Parker in the studio.
    Maddox played Arena football before he signed with the Steelers in 2001. He also has told the team he will gladly resume his role as backup to starter Ben Roethlisberger rather than ask for his release to chase a No. 1 job somewhere. That means that Charlie Batch, a UFA, likely will not return.
  • Jerome Bettis asked a handful of former football greats what it was like for them to go through their decisions on retirement. He spoke with Rod Woodson, Troy Aikman, Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw.
    "All good things come to an end sooner or later," Woodson said. "We all want things to last forever. We all want our bodies to be 22 again, but it can't happen. Jerome understands that, he knows where his body is at. I would love to see him come back and play one or two more years, but that's up to Jerome."
  • With the expected departure of Plaxico Burress in free agency, the Steelers are in need either for another X receiver to replace him or someone to play the slot for Antwaan Randle El, who could take over for Burress at the X. Getting one in the draft is the most likely scenario.
  • Chad Scott has been released and Willie Williams is 34. Ricardo Colclough likely will move into a starting job in his second pro season but they need backups and, eventually, someone to take over for Deshea Townsend.
  • Unrestricted free Agents: S Ainsley Battles; QB Charlie Batch; LB Kendrell Bell; OT Barrett Brooks; WR Plaxico Burress; S Tyrone Carter; DT Kendrick Clancy; TE Matt Cushing; TE Walter Rasby; OT Oliver Ross; OG Keydrick Vincent; CB Willie Williams.

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