Holmes 'shocked' by trade from Steelers
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes on the Steelers: "I'm definitely going to leave with great memories. I had a tremendous time, spending four years."
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The immediate effect of what some might call Big Monday for the Steelers is that Mike Wallace is their new starting split end.
With Santonio Holmes traded to the New York Jets for a fifth-round choice in the April 22-24 draft, Wallace becomes the logical player to step up because he has the size, speed and -- after an excellent rookie season -- the credentials coaches prefer for that spot.
The split end usually is sent deep on "go" routes and Wallace did that better than anyone in the league last season, leading the NFL with a 19.4-yard average per catch as a rookie. He caught 39 passes for 756 yards and three touchdowns as the team's No. 3 receiver.
The overall effect on the roster could come in how those receivers behind Wallace and starting flanker Hines Ward respond and whether they draft another. The Steelers, perhaps knowing that Holmes would be suspended the first four games of 2010 by the league, signed veterans Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle as free agents. They also have had seven wide receivers among the 30 college prospects visit them the past 2 1/2 weeks. Limas Sweed, their second-round draft choice placed on injured reserve last season for a health issue that was not physical in nature, remains in the mix as well.
Holmes said he was "shocked" to learn the Steelers had traded him to the New York Jets but said he is "ready to move forward to start a new career."
Holmes, speaking with reporters on a conference call Monday, said Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, informed him of the trade about 9 p.m. Sunday.
"I was very shocked," Holmes said. "But it opened a lot of doors and gives me a new chance to start over."
The NFL announced Monday that Holmes would be suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the league's substance abuse policy.
"Right now, I'm accountable for what happened," Holmes said, adding that "I don't think I have to dig out of any holes. These guys have opened up their arms to me."
Holmes had no parting shots for the Steelers.
"I'm definitely going to leave with great memories. I had a tremendous time, spending four years," Holmes said. "Those guys still trust and believe in me. It's just unfortunate we had to part ways. It worked out better for the both of us."
New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, on the same conference call, acknowledged the Jets were taking a risk by acquiring Holmes but noted it only cost his team a fifth-round draft choice (No. 155 overall).
"Santonio's situation, obviously there have been some bumps in the roads in the past," Tannenbaum said. "Hopefully he has learned from that. We understand there are risks, significant risks but at the end of the day we felt the price was reasonable and the risk reasonable."
The Steelers were prepared to release Holmes had they not been able to trade him, sources told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
They took the best deal they could find late Sunday night after talking to a number of other NFL teams about trading Holmes. Tannenbaum said the Steelers called him Saturday about a deal.
While it appears Holmes might not 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's 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 were bringing to the organization.
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.
The trade leaves the Steelers with 11 choices in the upcoming draft. Four of them are in the fifth round -- 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 Monday 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."
Wallace likely will move into Holmes' starting job in 2010. With Hines Ward, two newly signed veteran free agents in Randle El and Battle, and third-year pro 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."
Colbert issued a short statement when the Steelers finally confirmed the deal late Monday afternoon.
"We believe the move is in the best interests of the Pittsburgh Steelers," it read.
NOTES -- The Steelers entertained their final two college prospects Monday: wide receiver Antonio Brown of Central Michigan and defensive end Alex Carrington of Arkansas State brought the total player visits to the NFL limit of 30.