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Harris: Steelers weigh options with Roethlisberger

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Santonio Holmes didn't fit in.

He arrived with a little too much baggage, talked a little too boastfully about his pass-catching skills, and felt a little too unappreciated by the team that made him the 25th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

If ever a player was miscast with a team, it was Holmes and the Steelers.

Dirty South vs. Steel City was a mismatch.

Ben Roethlisberger could be next.

The Steelers traded Holmes, Roethlisberger's favorite and most productive receiver, to the New York Jets in a shocking transaction that should be interpreted as a wake-up call for their $102 million quarterback:

No one is sacred.

The Steelers just booted their Super Bowl MVP because of repeated screw-ups.

Still, given what happened to Holmes, if the Steelers feel they are being backed into a corner, they'll get rid of Roethlisberger, too -- big money contract or no big money contract.

"No one is bigger than the Steelers' organization. Not an owner. Not a coach. Not anyone," said longtime Pittsburgh-based agent and former NFL player Ralph Cindrich.

Damaged goods. That's the best way to describe Holmes, who despite catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to beat Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII, yielded only a fifth-round draft pick.

What would Roethlisberger, who recently turned 28 and has already won two Super Bowls, fetch on the open market if the Steelers finally decided they had enough?

Philadelphia received a second-round pick in this year's draft and a conditional third- or fourth-round pick next year for Donovan McNabb.

"McNabb is 33 years old and hasn't won two Super Bowls. I think Ben is one of the ... top quarterbacks in the league," said former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt of and Sirius radio. "If he were on the open market, they would get a very good draft choice, or choices, or a draft choice and a player."

Monday was a good news/bad news day for the Steelers.

The good news is that Roethlisberger won't be charged with sexual assault in Georgia, but stay tuned.

Roethlisberger could still be suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell under the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy, which can be enforced without criminal prosecution.

The bad news is that by trading Holmes, the Steelers got weaker as a football team.

Holmes has star potential in the right system -- the Jets are perfect for him.

If you ask Holmes, he's already a star. That's part of the reason why he's no longer with the Steelers.

Holmes becomes the Jets' problem. Roethlisberger remains the Steelers' problem.

Roethlisberger is scheduled to meet with Goodell later this week. Goodell may decide to suspend him, do nothing, or let the Steelers administer their own justice.

"I'm interested to see what's going to happen with Roger Goodell, because there's precedent in this situation with Pacman Jones," former NFL receiver Amani Toomer, who played 13 seasons with the Giants, told ESPN radio last week. "He never got convicted of anything, but he got arrested a lot of times. What is (Goodell) going to do?"

Jones was suspended for the 2007 season and for part of 2008 for off-the-field conduct.

"Ben Roethlisberger ... the NFL is running away from this like the plague. ... He should be suspended for at least eight games," Toomer said.

Toomer seems to be saying NFL players are waiting to see how Goodell handles Roethlisberger's situation.

Does Goodell, who has a track record for dishing out tough-guy discipline, give Roethlisberger a pass• Considering Toomer's comments, such a decision won't go over well with some players.

But not so fast.

Yesterday, the Steelers were still trying to make sense out of losing their top receiver, and their quarterback receiving yet another chance at NFL life.

It could have been worse for the Steelers, who should be counting their blessings.

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