The Steelers were prepared to release wide receiver Santonio Holmes had they not been able to trade him, sources told the Post-Gazette today.
They took the best deal they could find late Sunday night -- a fifth-round choice in the April 22-24 draft from the New York Jets. It was the best offer they received after talking to a number of other NFL teams about trading Holmes.
The trade came one day after a report on Profootballtalk.com that Holmes faces a four-game suspension in the 2010 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, which was confirmed today by the Post-Gazette.
Although it has not been announced whether Holmes will be charged in Orlando after a woman claimed he threw a glass in her face at a club early last month, the Steelers obviously had enough with their sometimes brilliant but often troubled wide receiver.
Holmes helped deliver the franchise its sixth Lombardi Trophy with his spectacular touchdown catch that won Super Bowl XLIII and brought him the game's MVP trophy. That came several months after coach Mike Tomlin made him inactive for one game after his arrest for marijuana by Pittsburgh police, a charge that ultimately was dropped.
He also was charged twice in his rookie year, once for disorderly conduct and once for choking a former girlfriend, but was not convicted on either account.
After the woman in Orlando filed a civil suit against him last month, Holmes issued some bizarre comments on his Twitter account, telling one person to kill himself and announcing another time that he was going to "wake n bake," considered by some to be slang for smoking marijuana.
Steelers management was furious with Holmes' antics and the black eye it and Ben Roethlisberger's legal issues had given to the organization.
They signed two free agent wide receivers last month, perhaps already knowing about Holmes' latest violation of the NFL substance abuse policy. Also, they have entertained four wide receivers among the 28 college prospects who have visited them over the past two weeks, two of them considered likely first-round picks: Notre Dame's Golden Tate and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant,
Holmes, the first wide receiver taken (with the 25th overall choice) in the 2006 NFL draft, had his best regular season in 2009 when he led the team with 1,248 yards receiving on 79 receptions, with five touchdowns. It was the first time he had topped 1,000 yards receiving. He has not made a Pro Bowl in his four seasons in the league.
Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert issued a curt statement after the Steelers finally confirmed the trade late this afternoon:
"We believe the move is in the best interests of the Steelers." It was a straight-up deal that does not include any other picks -- conditional or otherwise - or players.
The trade leaves the Steelers with 11 choices in the upcoming draft. Four of them are fifth-round draft choices -- one of their own, two compensatory and the other in the Holmes trade.
Tight end Heath Miller did not learn about the trade until he arrived at the team's training facility this morning.
"I definitely didn't see it coming,'' Miller said. "he's a good player, he was a big part of our offense, a big part of us winning games. We'll definitely miss him.
"At the same time, these sort of things happen in this business. The Rooneys and our ownership have been doing it for a long time and obviously felt it needed to be done.''
Miller said he was not one to decide whether those owners were trying to send a message by unloading a player who has caused them problems and faces a possible suspension.
"I think guys know they're held to a standard, they know they need to stay out of trouble. Some things happened, obviously. You'll have to ask the guys upstairs if they're trying to send a message or not.''
Mike Wallace, who led the NFL with a 19.4-yard average per catch during his rookie season in 2009 with 39 receptions for 756 yards, likely will move into Holmes starting job in 2010. With Hines Ward, two newly signed veteran free agents in Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle, and third-year pro Limas Sweed, Miller believes they remain strong at wide receiver.
"I think obviously Santonio was a game-changer, a big-time player. At the same time we have guys talented in their own right and I'll be excited to see how they compete and work and I know they are more than capable of getting the job done."
In the meantime, authorities in Georgia will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. today to reveal their decision on whether Roethlisberger will be charged in a sexual assault complaint.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
For more on the Steelers, read the new blog, Ed Bouchette On the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette can be reached at
First Published April 12, 2010 4:30 AM