PITTSBURGH - Plaxico Burress is back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, now older, wiser and a convicted felon.
Burress spent 20 months in prison on a weapons charge, the result of his own stupidity and a prosecutor intent on making an example of a high-profile offender. Burress had a loaded pistol tucked in his pants when he and a teammate entered a New York night club in 2008.
The pistol slipped and discharged, leaving Burress with a superficial wound and a Barney Fife moment that probably cost him at least $10 million in lost salary. He thought it was cool to act like a gangsta and took it a step too far. Dumb choice, huge penalty.
There was consternation in some circles that the Steelers would sign a player with a rap sheet. This plays into the belief that the Steelers don't tolerate players who behave badly. That's a myth.
In the early 1960s, the Steelers employed quarterback Bobby Layne, a celebrated rowdy renowned for his habit of taking rookies on drinking expeditions that left them staggering. Around the same time, the career of defensive lineman Gene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb ended with a fatal heroin overdose.
Ernie (Fats) Holmes, feeling the stress of financial and marital problems on a long drive from Texas, had the delusional belief that a police helicopter was after him. He pulled his car off the road and started firing at the helicopter. The Steelers' intervention helped him get a sentence of probation, and he played for five seasons.
The Steelers' 1970s championship teams had admitted steroids users. Joe Gilliam, who once started ahead of Terry Bradshaw, lost his career to drug abuse. Tim Worley, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 1989, never reached his potential because of drug issues. The Steelers rationalized all sorts of anti-social behavior by Greg Lloyd as long as he was a force on their defense.
Burress is aboard as a stopgap and he's no threat to the team's moral standing. He was more knucklehead than criminal, and he paid a steep price for that terrible judgment.
Welcome, Little Ben Roethlisberger Jr., and thanks for arriving at a time that didn't interfere with Dad's work schedule.
You're calling audibles for feedings and changings right now, just trying to figure out the basics.
Dad will likely be retired by the time you understand football, and that's probably for the best. Steelers Nation can be a tough place for QBs.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org