Ex-Steeler: 'Don't give up on yourself because some else did'
January 21, 2011 5:00 AM
Jets receiver Santonio Holmes celebrates his fourth-quarter touchdown against the Patriots Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Feb. 1, 2009, Santonio Holmes caught one of the great touchdown passes in Super Bowl history to make the Steelers champions.
April 12, 2010, he was traded ignominiously to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft pick, shortly after the NFL announced he would be suspended for four games of the coming season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Dec. 19, he returned to Heinz Field and made six catches as the Jets beat his former team, 22-17, and later described it as a "personal" victory.
Suffice it to say that, whatever Holmes does, it almost surely will be conspicuous.
Seemingly everything about Holmes' starcrossed career has come in a big way, including a penchant for the big play.
And that, to hear New York coach Rex Ryan explain it, is part of why the Jets took a chance in acquiring Holmes, even as the Steelers had been on the verge of releasing him.
"One of the reasons we brought 'Tone here is for these kind of games," Ryan said. "Big-time players make big-time plays in the brightest spotlight, and here it is right here. The AFC championship time. This is 'Tone time."
Holmes, 26, has been an instant hit with the Jets, with 52 catches in 12 regular-season games, an average of 14.3 yards per catch, and six touchdowns. And " 'Tone time" has come, too, as he had four catches in the playoff victory at Indianapolis, three more at New England.
Small wonder, then, that much of the discussion at the Jets' training facility this week has been expressions of glee that Holmes was taken from the Steelers at such a low price.
"I don't know how it happened, why it happened," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "I'm just glad it happened."
"You give him a fresh sheet of paper to write his story," center Nick Mangold said. "He's been fantastic for us, and we're happy he's on our side."
Ryan does not contain his happiness over having Holmes, either, but -- as with everything else this week -- he has refrained at firing any shots in the Steelers' direction.
Asked how he felt upon learning from New York general manager Mike Tannenbaum that Holmes was available, Ryan replied, "I just wanted him. I never cared about the compensation. Let Mike figure that out. I just knew that anybody who beat me that bad, I'd just as soon have him on our team. Three games in a row when I was in Baltimore, he beat us. He's that kind of player. You think you've got him batted down and, all of a sudden, boom, there he goes."
Holmes said the day after the trade that he was "shocked," although he acknowledged this week that fellow receiver Hines Ward had warned him at the time that such a thing might happen.
Now, it is fairly easy to see it is firmly planted in his past.
In recalling his reaction in April, Holmes said, "The main thing that went through my mind was: 'What caused this to happen?' I really didn't ask any questions. I just accepted what was going on. I got a phone call from Coach Ryan about five minutes after I got off the phone with the Steelers. Coach Ryan talked to me and said, 'Welcome aboard.' "
Asked if the Steelers unfairly gave up on him: "I don't know. I had to learn the business aspect of this game, which allows things like this to happen. I was very happy to get a second opportunity to play football and not really be concerned about what was going on. These type of things happen to big-time players. All you can do is just keep replenishing your career. If you get an opportunity to move somewhere else, don't give up on yourself because someone else did."
Holmes also made an easy-to-detect effort to downplay facing the Steelers again, pointing instead to the Dec. 19 meeting as the one that counted toward retribution: "I got a chance to beat those guys the first time around."
Later in the same response, though, he added, " If we win the Super Bowl, then everything is personal. That's a slap back in those guys' face for trading me. Right now, it's not even a focus of mine, and it shouldn't be the focus of any one of my teammates or anyone in this organization."
Holmes stressed the team-first aspect in most of his answers this week, and he faced the media Wednesday wearing a "Flight Boys" T-shirt, after a nickname he coined for the Jets' receivers, along with Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery.
"We wanted to prove to ourselves that we can be a great group of receivers," Holmes said. "We've got a guy who's been around this team for seven years in Jerricho. We've got Braylon, who is a six-year vet and a Pro Bowler, and myself as a Super Bowl winner. We have playmakers. We wanted to build something among ourselves, so that none one of us felt like we're being left out."
NOTES -- Linebacker Jason Taylor, of Woodland Hills High school, returned to practice after sustaining a mild concussion in the New England game. Ryan said he will be a "full-go" today and will play Sunday. ... Taylor, on playing this game at Heinz Field: "It's pretty cool. I was born and raised a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and grew up idolizing all those players. To go back to where it all started, back when I was 16, yeah, that's pretty cool. It's not Three Rivers. But it's still Heinz Field and the Steelers and all their tradition." ... Linebacker Bart Scott, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, has had his share of run-ins with Ward -- verbal, too -- but he professed mostly respect Thursday: "He's one of those guys that you hate, but you would love to have on your team. He's a tough, hard-nosed guy. He straddles the fence as far as legal, illegal [blocks]. But he's out there trying to help his football team win. He's not as fast as he used to be, but he's still dedicated."