PITTSBURGH - Plaxico Burress played five seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, during which he was a very good receiver, a decent guy and a knucklehead.
He made some major contributions to the team's success, even though he never seemed to be quite as good as he should have been.
He was always approachable and cooperative.
And he was a knucklehead.
He was always doing or saying something dumb that seemed to undermine his good qualities.
As a rookie, he didn't know the difference between college and pro rules, so he jumped up after a catch and spiked the ball, losing possession.
He didn't show up one year for mini-camp, and didn't feel obligated to call ahead and explain his absence.
This pattern has apparently continued since he signed with the New York Giants.
Reports from New York say Burress has been fined ''30 or 40 times'' for various violations of team policy over his four seasons with the Giants. Police have received calls about domestic disturbances at his house.
When the Giants visited Heinz Field last month, Burress was fresh off a one-week suspension for missing practice. He sat out the first 18 minutes of the game here as a penalty for blowing off a treatment appointment in the training room.
Now you may have noticed Burress is in big trouble for carrying an unlicensed gun into a New York club. He managed to shoot himself in the leg, too.
Burress is simultaneously in hot water with the police, the NFL and the Giants.
The expectation is the Giants will terminate his contract and the NFL will suspend him. That's small compared to the possibility he'll be sentenced to prison.
That trip to the club could cost him $30 million and time behind bars.
He may have played himself out of the knucklehead class with this episode.
There's a lesson to be learned from this, and Mike Tomlin is probably teaching it to the Steelers: Be smart.
Pro football players are celebrities in most towns, and celebrities are targets for attention. Some of that attention comes from people with malicious intentions.
Know where you're going. If you're going to a place where you feel you the need to carry a gun, go somewhere else.
If the need for protection exists, hire bodyguards. Ben Roethlisberger has them. Most players can afford a personal security detail.
Then there's this. What's wrong with staying at home? Maybe you don't need to make an entrance in a club.
Burress has a wife and a son. Maybe he could have spent the evening at his New Jersey home instead of heading into Manhattan.
But that would have required the kind of judgment Plaxico Burress has rarely shown in his nine seasons as a professional football player.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His weblog is at altoonamirror.com.