PLAXICO BURRESS TD ICES GAME… HOW ABOUT HIS FUTURE WITH PITTSBURGH?
"We'll see how it goes," Burress said after the game when asked about his future with Pittsburgh. "I'm pretty sure I'll sit down with Kevin [Colbert] and Coach [Tomlin], and we'll see what happens. I understand this is a business but for myself I'm going to keep working hard and preparing as if I'll be back somewhere."
Burress played six games with the Steelers in 2012, but was inactive for the team's two pivotal games against Dallas and Cincinnati in Weeks 15 and 16 before returning to grab a touchdown in a meaningless Week 17. Burress said he had no regrets.
"All I can do is prepare," Burress said. "I don't look back on the past couple of weeks or anything like that. I have the utmost respect for Kevin Colbert and Coach Tomlin and then decisions that they make. I was just trying to support my guys as best I could. I know I can still go out and do some good things, play some good football, get on the football field and stay healthy. I still feel that I can run and do some things pretty well, so we'll see."
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he was impressed with Burress' progress since joining the team in late November.
"We'd love to have everybody back, because you develop a friendship and these guys are teammates," Roethlisberger said. "If he's back, that'd be great. He's got plenty of game. You could really see it start to come back. Every week he kept getting his legs back. He was playing really good football."
Burress' touchdown with 3:20 remaining in Pittsburgh's win over Cleveland put the game out of reach at 24-10. For Plaxico, it was a vintage red-zone catch.
"It was nice, it was fun," said Roethlisberger. "They kind of double [teamed] him every time we got down there, but that time they didn't. I tried to look the linebacker off and big body down there made a good catch. He got inside the corner and he's a big target so I could kind of put it anywhere. I threw it up high and he made a play."
"They pretty much told me early in the week that I was going to go out and get some reps," Burress said. "I was just trying to get the defender on my back. He was kind of sitting in the throwing lane where we wanted to throw the ball, kind of on a sharp slant, but Ben just put it up in a place where I could get it and it was a great throw. I wasn't going to let it go, that was for sure. It just feels good to get into the endzone since I haven't been this whole season. It feels good."
Early in the second half of Pittsburgh's 24-10 victory over Cleveland, Browns DT Phil Taylor sent Steelers RT Kelvin Beachum out of the game with a concussion on a blindside hit, well away from the play where RB Jonathan Dwyer was on the ground after a 12-yard run.
Taylor was a marked man for the rest of the game and the teams squared off several times after whistles with pushing and shoving.
"You know I don't like to say negative things about people," Steelers LT Max Starks began afterward. "It was a cheap hit on Kelvin [Beachum] today. Actually [Taylor] tried to hit me earlier in the game but I saw him out of the corner of my eye and kind of slowed down so he just chipped me. Kelvin, it was a blatantly cheap play. [Dwyer] was on the ground, and he went and blindsided [Kelvin] late. That's something we just don't go for, especially this late in the year. That's just uncalled for and that's just classless. From that point forward we just stayed ahead of the curve."
"That was just uncalled for so it sparked a little bit more in us," running back Issac Redman said. "That's why you kept seeing a little pushing after the whistle. When you don't got nothing to play for and you're the type of person that guy is… he just has no morals. Even his own players were like, 'I don't understand that.' That's a cheap shot, that's not what this game needs. I really look down on him for that."
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was in the middle of several scrums the rest of the way, but was actually the most forgiving of Taylor.
"He got a hit in on Beachum, man, that caused him to go out of the game," Pouncey said. "From there, guys were trying to protect their buddies and going after him a little. It's ball, man, sometimes guys slip up and make mistakes but I'm pretty sure he'll apologize. The NFL will deal with that and be tough on him."
THE END FOR HAMPTON AND FOOTE?
They've been teammates on the Steelers defense, one year aside, since 2002. Both are upcoming unrestricted free agents.
Longtime friends and co-workers, NT Casey Hampton and LB Larry Foote spent plenty of time walking and talking together during both pre- and post- game time at Heinz Field as the 2012 Steelers season ended with a 24-10 victory over Cleveland.
"I tried to get in the zone there a little bit," Foote said. "A lot of good times. A few bad times but a lot of good times. Hopefully it ain't the last time."
Although Hampton wouldn't admit to getting emotional.
"No, man, that's Foote," said Hampton. "We were just hanging out enjoying it. That's my dog."
Will they be back together in 2013?
"I'd love to be back, ain't no question that I want to be here," Hampton said. "That goes without saying. I want to be here, but we'll see. I played alright, man, fought through injuries and just did what I could do. Defense ended up pretty good. At the end of the day we didn't get to the playoffs or do what we wanted to do, but defensively we played pretty good."
Both Hampton and Foote played all sixteen games on the year, with Foote taking extra responsibility with a starting role in place of the retired James Farrior.
"I was healthy," Foote said. "Early in the season, the defense was probably bottom 20 [in the league], I couldn't sleep. My mind was just saying, 'Farrior. Farrior. It's my fault!' But other guys backed me up and we got this thing to number one [yardage against]. From an individual standpoint, I've been healthy and put some good film out there, so I'm pleased."
Pressed as to whether he thinks he'll be back, Foote trended towards a 'Yes.'
"I'm saying 'Yeah' because we finished number 1, I'm healthy, and I played good," Foote said. "But they make think something else, you never know. Me being 32 and me loving this place and I tried somewhere else before and it didn't turn out too good. The ball's in the Steelers court without a doubt, but things just have to add up and make sense. If they want me back, they'll bring me back. No, you know upstairs they keep it professional and we're supposed to do the same. So I'm quite sure in a month or so they're going to come up with a plan. If it was my choice they'd bring us all back, especially on defense. We were the number one defense in the league. Kevin Colbert, he knows how to run the team better than me. It was fun. It's going to end one day, hopefully it's just not today."
HOW ABOUT MAX STARKS?
Technically, Pittsburgh Steelers LT Max Starks didn't play every single snap in 2012 for the team.
"Does field goal unit count?," Starks asked with a laugh. "Because I didn't play it for like the first nine weeks of the season."
However, almost 1,100 snaps of offense are in the books as Starks played all 16 games this year following ACL surgery in January.
"I finished off every offensive snap," Starks finally declared. "It's been a blessing. Adrian Peterson isn't the only one that has a strong ACL and can finish strong. When you look at where I was six months before training camp going in, having surgery on the 20th and then reporting in camp and starting the third preseason game… it was a long road but well worth it. It was a great opportunity and God truly blessed me with an opportunity to be able to play every snap this year."
Starks admitted earlier in the week that he may be forced to sign elsewhere this offseason, with the Steelers having drafted offensive tackles in the second round each of the last two years. However, Starks said he didn't get too misty-eyed thinking about it during the team's 24-10 season ending win over Cleveland.
"No, I had some grass stains left on my socks, so I saved a part of Heinz Field in case I do go," Starks said as he laughed again. "I've had nine years, I have a lot of memories here. So it wasn't anything that made me want to savor it extra long. But it's been a great run if this is the end of it here in Pittsburgh. It's always good to go out with a victory. We didn't want to finish below .500 which we haven't done in nine years. I'm very happy about that. Also, it was Cleveland. You never want to get swept by Cleveland. It was a good feeling to finish out. It didn't finish the way we wanted it to, but it was a good exclamation point to the end of the season."
Pressed on whether he thinks he'll return to Pittsburgh for a tenth campaign, Starks said it was too soon to say.
"I don't know. We just finished this game, so obviously those things don't happen until March," Starks said. "It's two months until I really figure it out, or close to it before I really know anything. I don't know what the future holds, but I'll prepare for whatever opportunities arise. I'll be ready to see what happens."
Pittsburgh Steelers LT Max Starks isn't one to break into angry postgame tirades after games or seasons.
However, he has certainly been know to offer thoughtful introspection on why things do or don't work.
The latter was the case after the team's 24-10 victory over Cleveland ended an 8-8 season for the Steelers, as Starks was asked what needed to change going for Pittsburgh's offense heading into 2013.
"You can't have as much uncertainty going into a week," Starks said, speaking on the team's sporadic running game and frequent rotation of backs. "Being more definitive, so to speak, about who your starter is, who your main guy is, and then who are your auxiliary and situation guys. Early on we didn't have that and it was kind by-committee, trying to feel it out. Going into next year, clear and defined roles right after training camp if there's battles and there's a clear cut winner that comes out."
And Starks also jokingly suggested a group change in exercise techniques.
"And also lack of injuries," Starks continued. "We probably need to get more flexible as a team. Might need some yoga and pilates classes, we had a lot of injuries this year. We had the talent, we had the personnel. We just need to be more definitive and more cohesive as a unit."