PITTSBURGH – Plaxico Burress shook hands. He bro-hugged. He talked. He listened. He watched. He hung out. He paced.
The one thing the free agent wide receiver didn't do on Saturday while visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers is sign a contract.
Instead Burress hopped into an awaiting limo just as the team began afternoon practice at Saint Vincent University following a lengthy visit in which he met with owner Art Rooney, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin when he wasn't catching up with old teammates.
Tomlin called the sit-down "good" while the normally tight-lipped Colbert was decidedly open when talking about the nature of the discussion.
"Obviously he's interested," Colbert said. "Drew (Rosenhaus) his agent is interested and we're certainly interested."
Consider quarterback Ben Roethlisberger chief among those hoping to land the soon-to-be 34-year-old. He spoke to Burress several times following Burress' release from prison in June after serving 20 months on a gun charge.
Though the defending AFC champions aren't exactly hurting at wide receiver with veteran Hines Ward, budding star Mike Wallace and youngsters Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, Burress would give the passing game an added dimension. For all their speed, Ward and company — all 6-feet and under — can't look the 6-foot-5 Roethlisberger in the eye. Burress, also 6-5, can.
"For this offense we've got a lot of weapons, a lot of tools (but) anytime you can just add something, say it's a (fast) guy, a tall guy ... he can help the young guys and I think that's good," Roethlisberger said.
The day with the Steelers came a day after Burress spent 90 minutes talking with New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Burress caught the game-winning touchdown in the team's upset of the unbeaten New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl, before his career derailed after he accidentally shot himself in a New York nightclub in 2009.
Coughlin said he wanted to see "sincerity" from Burress during their meeting. The Steelers certainly felt as if they received it from the player they took eighth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Burress spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, catching 35 passes for 698 yards and five touchdowns in his final year with the team in 2004 as it slowly broke in Roethlisberger, a rookie at the time. Burress moved on to New York, where he thrived catching balls from Eli Manning but often ran into trouble with Coughlin.
Now the mercurial but talented wide out is hoping to revive his career much in the same way Michael Vick did with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Steelers would like to help, but Colbert knows Burress' return won't come down to sentiment, it'll come down to money. And there's a very real chance economics could get in the way of Burress sharing a huddle with Roethlisberger in the fall.
Burress' legal troubles cost him two years in his prime, and despite the layoff he knows there are few free agents on the market with his size and resume. He won't come cheap, which could be a problem for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers began training camp about $10 million over the projected $120.4 million salary cap and released veterans Flozell Adams, Antwaan Randle El and Max Starks earlier in the week to trim payroll. Further cuts could be coming, and some contract restructuring is expected as the team attempts to sign young core players such as linebacker Lamar Woodley to extensions.
"That's the thing we have to judge because we don't know where finances would be at this point," Colbert said. "Once you determine that with any player, you have to look at it like, 'OK, if we do this it's going to cost us this and is it worth doing it.'"
The team has time to do the math. As a free agent, Burress can't join any potential team until Aug. 4. If he dons the black-and-gold, Burress would hardly be the first former Steeler to prove you can go home again.
Pittsburgh is one of the few teams in the league that actively pursues second chances. The roster is littered with players such as quarterback Byron Leftwich and linebacker Larry Foote who went elsewhere in their careers only to return to the Steel City.
Though he's hasn't caught an NFL pass in two years, Colbert said Burress looked "great" and there was no need to put him through a lengthy workout, knowing the true test won't come until Burress is wearing a helmet and shoulder pads.
"He missed two years of football and until he gets back on the football field nobody is going to know that," Colbert said. "But I don't think a workout could accurately indicate where he would be."
Vick singlehandedly electrified a franchise when he became the starter. Burress won't be asked to do nearly as much if he signs in Pittsburgh, which has stockpiled young receivers behind Ward.
"If he can help us win another Super Bowl, I'm for it," Ward said. "We had some great years when we're together here and would definitely add some explosiveness to our already explosive receiving corps. If he's here, we'll welcome him with open arms."