Holmes cost Steelers dearly in loss to Giants

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To no one's surprise, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not invite guests for his meeting with wide receiver Santonio Holmes yesterday. So we are left to speculate: The sit-down did not go well for Holmes. Tomlin did almost all of the talking. Holmes quickly learned how stupid and selfish he was for being charged Thursday for possession of a small amount of marijuana. He found out how much he let his teammates down by not being available for the 21-14 loss Sunday to the New York Giants after being deactivated for the game by an angry Tomlin. And he probably left the room significantly poorer after being fined by Tomlin for idiocy, if no other reason.

Really, how could that man to man have gone any other way?

There was another meeting at the Steelers' South Side headquarters a little later in the day, a team meeting. Again, Tomlin didn't allow visitors. Again, we are forced to speculate:

"All right, men, before we get started, Santonio has something he wants to say to all of you ..."

"I'd just like to say I'm sorry for not being there for you guys yesterday. You all played your guts out and I wasn't there to help. You depend on me to be a big part of this football team. I blew it. That loss is on me. It won't happen again."

Really, how could that meeting have gone any other way?

It would have been nice if Holmes had chosen to apologize publicly. You know, in person. People love apologies and are quick to forgive because they know how easy it is to make a mistake, even a dumb one. But Holmes and the Steelers took the easy way out, issuing a lame statement that was supposed to serve as his apology. The words -- if they were indeed Holmes' and not those of some staffer in the public relations office -- don't have the same impact on paper that they do coming from a man's heart. It's just too hard to measure sincerity on paper.

But it's no wonder that Holmes and the Steelers want this issue to go away as quickly as possible. This easily was the low point of their season because the incident was so unnecessary. It's not so much that Holmes' offense was so dastardly. Getting caught with three marijuana-filled cigars isn't the worst crime known to mankind, although having the blunts in your SUV is off the dumb charts when you know you can be stopped by police at any time for any reason from a faulty tail light to speeding or running a red light to, in Holmes' case, an investigatory stop of vehicles similar to his that allegedly were involved in the transportation of narcotics.

"Just his bad luck," a Pittsburgh police commander said of Holmes' arrest.

Just his stupidity, actually.

What's sad is the hurtful impact the incident had on the Steelers. It crushed their chances of beating the Giants. It's hard for any team to beat the defending Super Bowl champs without one of its best players. I'm not sure Holmes' absence wasn't the No. 1 reason the Steelers lost.

People were quick to blame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which is fine. He's paid big money to take responsibility for the losses and he did not have one of his better games, throwing four interceptions. They also blamed the offensive line, which isn't so fine. Those guys played a decent game, certainly good enough to win. Most of the five sacks of Roethlisberger weren't their fault. The sacks happened because the receivers weren't getting open.

Holmes would have made a huge difference.

How could one of the NFL's top deep-threat, big-play receivers not make a difference?

Holmes should have sought out Roethlisberger and each of the offensive linemen yesterday to apologize individually.

It's nice to think the Steelers will have Holmes for their game Monday night at Washington. Tomlin wasn't available for comment yesterday, what with all of his meetings, but the guess here is he's satisfied that Holmes has paid his debt to the team. But the NFL? That might be a different story. The league didn't comment about Holmes' situation yesterday, but it seems possible he still could get a suspension for violating its drug policy or code of conduct.

"I recognize that I made a mistake and understand the significance of my actions," read the statement attributed to Holmes.

That's a good thing, I'm thinking.

Maybe it really won't happen again.

"[I] will not make any excuses for my behavior," Holmes allegedly wrote.

That's a better thing.

There is no good excuse for it.

Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com .


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