Plaxico Burress On Pittsburgh: ‘You Realize How Special An Environment It Is’

Not every integral player gets to part with their team on their own terms. And not every team gets to retain its integral players through the length of their career. Money is a key factor in both equations, to be sure.

As I talked about earlier today, we can probably safely assume that the relationship Troy Polamalu has with the Pittsburgh Steelers still has a period of healing to go through before there can be peace in that sphere, if there ever will be.

But not all partings are permanent, and Plaxico Burress, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick at wide receiver in the 2000 draft, is just one example of that. He was a big-time player and instrumental in helping a rookie Ben Roethlisberger get off on the right foot in 2004 before he hit unrestricted free agency.

Burress cashed in during free agency with the Giants, and while he might have missed a Super Bowl title with the Steelers just that same year in 2005, he would go on to win with New York two years after that. Things got a bit ugly after that, including a stint in jail for gun charges after shooting himself in a nightclub, but the road was not at its end.

After his release from prison, he replanted himself with the Jets, and in 2012, got the opportunity to work with Roethlisberger and the Steelers again. In four games at the end of the 2012 season, he caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in a limited role. He was brought back the next year but suffered an injury, and did not play again.

On the opportunity to come back to where his career began, he recently told the team’s website for a Legends Series interview that he “embraced it more”, saying, “when I left, I went on to do good things, but I didn’t have that special factor”.

“You get back with the guys that you missed and you realize how special an environment it is. It’s something that doesn’t exist elsewhere. The older I got in the business and I saw what went on in the locker room, that locker room made the team and the guys in there made it”.

Of course, I don’t believe there were too many of his former teammates left at that time. But there were some, like Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, and several defensive players.

“Pittsburgh will always be home to me”, he said. “I spent more time there than anywhere and the relationships I formed verified that”. He said that the city “rubs off” on the players who come there, and they embrace the blue-collar ethos that remains even as Pittsburgh has transformed into a hub of white-collar industry.

Crediting the fans for their loyalty and dedication, Burress said that “they live, eat and breathe football here. You think it’s normal because it’s all you know. It’s not like that everywhere. When you go somewhere else, the fans are not the same. The fans here are the best”.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fond memories of watching him play in Pittsburgh, and even liked seeing him get a second stint here, albeit a short one. I think his time away from here—and in prison—led him to appreciate just how important the team and the city had been to him, which is why he remains involved today.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Michael Walsh

    Maybe he should talk to Martavis…or his girlfriend…

  • Darth Blount 47

    Plaxicos? Was that Plaxico’s evil twin Mexican cousin? 😉

    For some reason, I don’t think Plaxico was as beloved here as he maybe should have been. Perhaps it all started off wrong when he spiked that ball against Jacksonville when he thought he was touched down and it was ruled a fumble recovery by the Jags. I’m not sure. Yes, he had his best years away from Pittsburgh in some ways. And no, he’s not rightly viewed as some kind of all-time great. However, I think Burress played a very important role in Pittsburgh. He teamed with Ward to finally give us that WR 1-2 punch that had been missing for years. And his playing time came right at that transitional period, when we were trying to go from a running team to a passing team. Handing off the reigns from Kordell to Tommy to Ben. His departure in 2005, also set us up for having to hear Ben pine for a “tall” WR for the next seemingly endless amount of years. And who can forget, he predicted the amazing SB upset of New England, while also playing a huge role in making it happen.

    I too, thought it pretty cool that he decided to come back here. And that year, I was really rooting for him to have a good year. It ended sort of sadly, as it usually seemed to with him. But I still think back on the year he was drafted, and was pretty happy with the pick. Even if I wanted us to draft either Chad Pennington or Brian Urlacher.

  • Mark

    Great idea, I wish he would talk with Hines and Plaxico.

  • nutty32

    Used to kill it on EA Sports NCAA football with Plexico. Big #4 was unstoppable in that game. Boy was I pumped when he got drafted by the good guys.

  • DirtDawg1964

    Pennington was the guy high on my list. Not sure why people didn’t warm up to Plax. I recall a reasonably coolish approach by most fans to him. He had the two monster years and a big playoff game but his final two years weren’t up to par and he did leave as a FA and we know how that’s typically received. Oh, and he did fumble a fair bit in his time here. Including that memorable “spike”. I remember that as if it was yesterday.

    His best year was arguably 2002. At least in terms of receptions, yards and yards per catch.

    I admit to being cool to him. Can’t say I was sad to see him go to jail! But I’ve warmed up as he came back. And had nice things to say about the Steelers.

  • corduroyninja

    Plaxico made some cool socks

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Still have Plaxico at # 129 on my all-time Steelers list

  • Conserv_58

    BINGO!

    After watching Burress’ video I thought to myself, this should be required viewing for Martavis. He should be made to watch it before getting a hat this coming weekend.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    For the Steelers to bring him back says a lot too. I was at the Pats game we he had that long TD and said to my buddy they should re-sign him. Well, they didn’t. I believe to this day that if they would’ve they could have one more ring. He and Hines complemented each other so well.

  • pittfan

    Matthew, The letter he wrote before the season to incoming rookies is worth linking to to lend perspective on where he came from and what he’s learned along the way.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You’re talking about the Players Tribune article, right? Yeah, that was a good read. I think I wrote an article talking about it when it came out.

  • pittfan

    Yup, that’s the one. Very revealing read. It’s sad so many of these athletes because of their “star” status actually graduate high school and college having not learned some of the basics of life. And truer now than ever, even extending to non-athletes.

  • Mister Wirez

    I forgot that that was the 2000 draft. Damn, time flies.