...By Ill Still
From the absolute second he became a Pittsburgh Steeler, Santonio Holmes has been waving the Terrible Towel with pride (literally).
At the start of his rookie 2006 season, Holmes had a bad case of the fumbles, especially in the punt return game. At one point, he was booed and replaced by Cedrick Wilson, who did a great job waving his hand in the air for each return he was given.
However, Holmes continued to put up decent numbers for a rookie throughout the season, and even caught his first nfl touchdown, in a huge comeback victory against the one and only Cleveland Clowns.
Eventually, Holmes won back his punt returning job (sort of), and returned the favor with a scamper for a TD to seal a win (and better the struggling Steelers' chances at a playoff spot) against the Carolina Panthers.
However, it was the final game of the 2006 season when Holmes truly shined. In their final week 17 game, the Steelers were well aware that their chances at a playoff spot were long gone. However, they had a visit to pay to the Cincinatti Bengals, who were still alive in the playoff race. Once again, it was the good ol' Steelers-Bengals matchup, meaning once again, even though the Steelers dominated statisically, the Bengals managed to keep up. The score was deadlocked at a 17-17 tie, and with overtime brought one of the greatest plays in Steelers regular season history. Just minutes into OT, Holmes managed to turn a simple slant reception into an absolutely beautiful 67 yard run, complete with his jersey ripped down over his shoulder pad and a majestic dive for the game-winning touchdown. Within seconds of landing in the ground, Holmes' fellow Steeler players bombarded him in the endzone. The combination of killing the division rival Bengal's shot at the playoffs and the way it was done made this quite possibly the greatest cap to a non-playoff season in the history of the National Football League. And it was led by a rookie.
In his very first season in the NFL, Holmes played well, finishing with a respectable 49 catches for 824 yards.
The Steelers started the 2007 season off with a 3 game winning streak by a resounding combined score of 97-26. In these 3 games, Holmes had a decent 50 yards per game average, with one touchdown.
However, it was the first loss of the Steelers' 2007 season where Holmes' heavily predicted "Breakout season" had truly begun.
In a week 4 matchup in the desert vs. the Arizona Cardinals, Holmes pulled in 6 catches for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns, the first multi-touchdown game of his career.
Just 5 weeks later, Holmes had yet another 2 touchdown game, against the division rival Baltimore Ravens. This 4 catch 110 yard effort aided the Steelers in a blistering 38-7 victory, also giving them a leg up in the division.
What makes these accomplishments even more impressive is the fact that Holmes was battling injuries throughout the season, only playing 13 games total.
Even with the missed games, though, Santonio, still managed to attain just under 1000 yards for the 2007 season, with only 52 catches total. It should come as no surprise that Holmes had the largest yards per catch in the NFL.
Holmes, didn't have a spectacular game in his first NFL playoff, but still managed to show up when the Stillers needed him most.
Having only been held to 12 yards all the way to the 4th quarter, it seemed Holmes was not going to achieve much in his first ever playoff game. However, with the Stillers down 28-10 early in the 4th quarter, Holmes had another of one of his best receptions of all time.
On a 4th and 16, with a jailhouse blitz coming right at him, Big Ben had no choice but to throw to the short route. Luckily, it was Holmes. Santonio took the slant play, cleanly broke a tackle, and not only got the first down, but managed to take it to the house.
This play was perhaps the play that ignited the Stillers to a huge 19 point comeback, which unfortunately ended in favor of Jacksonville. (Thanks, Bruce!)
2008 brought a dramatic change in the Stillers offense. At times it seem to sputter and appear almost inept. The same, of course, can be said for Santonio Holmes. Although he had an only slightly lower average in terms of yards, things would eventually get a lot worse for Mr. Smoketonio Holmes.
On October 23, 2008, Santonio Holmes was pulled over for a traffic stop. When police were suspicious of him having marijuana, Holmes openly admitted he had 3 blunts in his car.
Holmes then realized the downside of being an NFL superstar, and paid the price for his actions.
With this occurence, Holmes was forever doned names such as "Smoketonio and Santokeyo", which he can only hope will fade with time..
The following friday, Mike Tomlin deactivated Santonio Holmes for the following game against the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. The Stillers lost, 14-21. Their second loss in 6 games.
Holmes would later issue an apology.
Aside from a few spectacular catches and a small amount of superb returns(though none for TD's), Holmes had a rather bland end to the 2008 season. Oh, except one game...
To quote The Mailman, Holmes is indeed a Raven killer. In his career, Santonio Holmes has accumulated an astounding 481 yards and 6 touchdowns in 7 games against Baltimore, which averages out to just under 70 yards per game versus the Ratbirds.
This week 15 matchup would a little different. In his worst game against Baltimore, after being held to a meager 21 yards receiving AND fumbling the ball back to the Ravens deep in the Steelers' territory, Santonio STILL managed to turn in the big game-winning catch. Not only was this a phenomenal play for both the steelers and Holmes, but this beautiful toe tap catch at the very front of the endzone (which will always be debated as to whether it was indeed a catch or not), gave the Steelers the AFC North crown for the second straight year.
For his second straight playoff game, Holmes did not have a very stellar statsheet. A meager 2 catches for 25 yards isn't exactly "How you be great". However, Holmes would make up for this lackluster performance with a brilliant 67 yard punt return (67 yards...that sounds familiar) for a touchdown. Again, for his second straight playoff game, Holmes seemingly ignited the Steelers' struggling offense which would once again put up several scoring drives following a big play by Santonio, but this time, also a win. (No thanks to you, Bruce)
In his third playoff game, a game vs. the ever beloved Ravens, Holmes had another 2 catches. 1 of them was for 5 yards. He also fumbled. The other was yet another HUGE 65 (if only it was 67) yard for a touchdown game-changing play. How does this guy keep doing that?!? This was the lone offensive touchdown for the Steelers in a frigid AFC Championship game, and lifted the Steelers 6 point lead to a 13 point lead. The Steelers never relinquished the lead (Damned if you didn't try though, Bruce!), and eventually won the game 23-14. (See Polamalu, Troy for more information)
With the aid of Mr. Santonio Holmes, the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers reached the Super Bowl. A rematch from 2007 against the- Arizona Cardinals.
And just like the last game vs. the Redbirds, Holmes once again truly shined.
In all honesty, Holmes never let up in the entire Super Bowl. Without some rather BS penalties, he could have racked up over 200 yards.
A good example of said BS would be this play which occurred with a 6 point lead on a 3rd and 10 from the PIT 1 yard line late in the 4th quarter:
(3:04) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass deep right to 10-S.Holmes to PIT 20 for 19 yards (29-D.Rodgers-Cromartie). PENALTY on PIT-62-J.Hartwig, Offensive Holding, 1 yard, enforced in End Zone, SAFETY - No Play.
What the summary does not tell you is the fact that Holmes had only a split second to look for the pass, was covered extremely well, and STILL managed to haul in a ONE HANDED grab.
Regardless of the pure ridiculousness of that play, it went for nought.
"Hey, I want the ball"
These were the words spoken to Ben Roethlisberger by Santonio Holmes after the Cardinals managed an inexplicable comeback to take the lead following the safety 23-20 (Praise Lebeau!). His words did not go unheeded.
In the Steelers final drive in the Super Bowl and their 2008 season, Holmes accounted for 4 catches for 73 yards, almost the entire drive's worth of yards.
His 3rd catch went for 40 yards, taking the ball to the Arizona 6 yard line. His 4th, was history. On a 2nd and 6 from that 6 yard line...
(:42) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short right to 10-S.Holmes for 6 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Once again, though, this simple summary does not do the play justice. Big Ben Roethlisberger had to lay this ball in perfectly, and that he did. The ball went through not one, not two, but THREE Cardinal defenders, right into Holmes' soft hands. Santonio did his best to tiptoe both feet in, and the play was ruled a touchdown.
To this day, some people have their doubts that he touched the right foot down, but what would a spectacular Santonio Holmes catch be without a little controversy?
Holmes finished the Super Bowl with an astounding 9 catches for 131 yards; the most catches and second most yards receiving in his short career.
For 2009, the best is yet to come for Mr. Holmes. Just wait!