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Help for Kordell

Steelers thrilled to nab 'playmaker' Burress at No. 8

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Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 04:38 PM

  Plaxico Burress Plaxico Burress' knack for being a playmaker at wide receiver is an asset the Steelers desperately need. AP

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers know Plaxico Burress has a reputation for occasionally being as much trouble to his own team as he is to opposing cornerbacks.

For not running disciplined routes.

For missing appointments.

When it came time to draft, it didn't matter.

Desperate for a big receiver to open up an offense that rarely expanded beyond giving the ball to Jerome Bettis last season, they drafted Burress with the eighth pick Saturday.

Now, they hope he can become the player that scouts have long said he can be, not another expensive problem they don't need.

The Steelers passed up the quarterback widely considered the best available in a quarterback-thin draft, Marshall's Chad Pennington, to draft the 6-foot-5 1/2, 233-pound Burress, who caught 53 passes for 957 yards for Michigan State last season.

Steelers First-Round Draft Picks
Year  Player  Pos  School 
2000  Plaxico Burress  WR  Michigan State 
1999  Troy Edwards  WR  Louisiana Tech 
1998  Alan Faneca  OG  LSU 
1997  Chad Scott  CB  Maryland 
1996  Jamain Stephens  OT  N. Carolina A&T 
1995  Mark Bruener  TE  Washington 
1994  Charles Johnson  WR  Colorado 
1993  Deon Figures  CB  Colorado 
1992  Leon Searcy  RT  Miami 
1991  Huey Richardson  LB  Florida 
1990  Eric Green  TE  Liberty  
1989  Tim Worley  RB  Georgia 
1989  Tom Ricketts  Pittsburgh  
1988  Aaron Jones  DE  E. Kentucky 
1987  Rod Woodson  CB  Purdue 
1986  John Reinstra  Temple 
1985  Darryl Sims  DE  Wisconsin 
1984  Louis Lipps  WR  Southern Miss. 
1983  Gabriel Rivera  NT  Texas Tech 
1982  Walter Abercrombie  RB  Baylor 
1981  Gary Keith  DE  Oklahoma 
1980  Mark Malone  QB  Arizona State 
1979  Greg Hawthorne  RB  Baylor 
1978  Ron Johnson  CB  E. Michigan 
1977  Robin Cole  LB  New Mexico 
1976  B. Cunningham  TE  Clemson 
1975  Dave Brown  DB  Michigan 
1974  Lynn Swann  WR  USC 
1973  James Thomas  DB  Florida State 
1972  Franco Harris  RB  Penn State 
1971  Frank Lewis  WR  Grambling 
1970  Terry Bradshaw (X)  QB  La. Tech 
Since 1970
X -- No. 1 pick

Apparently, the decision wasn't as much an endorsement of incumbent quarterback Kordell Stewart as it was an admission they badly need help at receiver. Now.

"We needed a playmaker, and he was the best playmaker on the board," said coach Bill Cowher, who teamed with new director of football operations Kevin Colbert to make the pick. "We looked at what was best for our team, and we felt like Plaxico Burress was a guy we couldn't afford to pass up."

Even if Burress passed up his first scheduled interview with the Steelers. He later apologized to Cowher and visited with the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Burress also failed to show up for a similar meeting with Philadelphia, and the Eagles reportedly took him off their draft board because of it.

"We didn't have a good first meeting," Cowher said. "But he came up and apologized for it."

Burress said, "I was coming in from California and I was tired. I ate and I laid down and slept right through. I called coach Cowher and explained, and he's been great. We have a great relationship."

Of course, the $5 million signing bonus he likely will command as the No. 8 pick could go a long way toward improving that relationship.

"We looked at other guys, but he was the one guy we felt was worthy of that pick," Cowher said. "We had some others, but none of them came close to matching the value of Plaxico's worth."

It was the second year in a row the Steelers targeted a wide receiver on the first round. Last year, it was Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards, who became the leading receiver on a 6-10 team but not stretch defenses or develop into a deep threat.

"Plaxico is more football ready than Troy was when he came from the system he came from," Cowher said.

Burress lacks the speed of a Peter Warrick, running a relatively slow 4.56 40-yard dash on Michigan State's fast track, but his size should present problems to undersized cornerbacks.

"All I could do was rely on my performance and try to make believers of those who don't believe in me," said Burress, who is aware of his reputation for sometimes taking off plays or disappearing in big games.

Cowher said, "He can go downfield, and not many corners can go downfield with him."

Burress played two seasons with the Spartans before making himself available for the draft, catching 118 passes for nearly 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had nine touchdown catches last season and three more among 13 receptions for 185 yards against Florida in the Citrus Bowl.

Burress' assets are his size, athletic ability, good hands, balance and body control. The downsides are his reputedly poor practice habits, occasional dropped passes and a penchant for free-lancing.

'We had no problems with his background,' Cowher said. 'He's driven by all of the right things."

Related information
Chat Reel: Plaxico Burress's Pat Kirwan's First-Round Analysis
NFL Draft First-Round Breakdown
NFL Draft Wide Reciever Breakdown
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