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Steelers players say Holmes trade unexpected, but not distracting

| Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Steelers revealed what their breaking point is with wayward players when they dealt Santonio Holmes, the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII, to the New York Jets on Monday for a fifth-round pick in this year's NFL draft.

Holmes told New York reporters yesterday that he was "very shocked" by the trade.

"Those guys still trust and believe in me," Holmes said of the Steelers. "It's just unfortunate that we had to part ways, but it definitely worked out for the better for the both of us."

The trade was announced on the same day as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found out he would not be charged with sexual assault in Georgia.

Holmes, 26, will be forever remembered for the spectacular touchdown catch that helped deliver a record sixth Super Bowl title to the Steelers. The four seasons he spent in Pittsburgh were also marked by a series of run-ins with the law as well as drug-related issues.

The NFL suspended Holmes yesterday for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating its substance abuse policy. In addition, the Florida attorney's office is investigating an accusation by a 21-year-old woman that Holmes threw a glass of liquor that hit her in the face during a March 7 dispute at an Orlando nightclub.

The incidents are Holmes' latest since the Steelers took him in the first round of the 2006 draft -- and they hastened his departure from the image-conscious organization.

In a Steelers news release announcing the trade, director of football operations Kevin Colbert said, "We believe the move is in the best interests of the Pittsburgh Steelers."

The Steelers moved swiftly to jettison Holmes after an Internet report Saturday said the 5-foot-11, 192-pound receiver would be suspended by the league for violating its drug policy.

Holmes had been deactivated by the Steelers for a game in 2008 following an arrest on marijuana possession, though the charge was eventually dismissed.

He has also made references to smoking marijuana on his Twitter account.

The Steelers agreed to trade Holmes for a draft pick late Sunday, and Holmes said he learned about the deal at around 9 p.m.

The Steelers sent him to the team that made the AFC title game last season with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and has since only gotten better, at least on paper.

"Obviously, you don't really see it coming," Steelers tight end Heath Miller said of the trade. "We'll definitely miss (Holmes). But at the same time, I think there's a lot of good receivers that I'm sure will be up to the challenge to step up and pick up the slack."

Holmes is entering the final year of the contract he signed in 2006, and it became increasingly clear that the Steelers were not going to sign him to a long-term extension.

Outside linebacker James Harrison shrugged off the Holmes trade as part of the business side of the NFL.

"You have guys that come and go each year," Harrison said. "(Holmes) just went at a time that may have been unexpected for some people. You deal with it, move on and get ready for next season."

The trade of Holmes weakens the Steelers at a position where they had bolstered themselves during free agency with the signings of Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle.

Mike Wallace, who excelled as a rookie last season, would appear to get first crack at Holmes' starting job.

When asked about taking another step after leading the Steelers in yards per catch (19.4) last season, Wallace said, "I'm ready."

Holmes caught 235 passes for 3,835 yards and 20 touchdowns in 60 career games with the Steelers.

"Obviously, a guy with his production and at 26 years old, he would not have been available if these indiscretions didn't happen and obviously the suspension," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told New York reporters. "We just felt like the risk and the price was reasonable for us."

Miller said the trade of Holmes and other off-the-field issues the Steelers have had to deal with during the offseason hasn't become a problem.

"I don't know what it would be distracting us from right now. Right now all we're doing is lifting weights, getting ourselves in shape," Miller said. "It's not a good thing, but I don't think it hurts the team. Like I said, we're not playing games anytime soon."

The Steelers met with a pair of draft prospects, Arkansas State defensive end Alex Carrington and Central Michigan wide receiver Antonio Brown, Monday at their South Side practice facility.

The Steelers have hosted 29 out-of-area prospects this month. Teams are allowed 30 such visits in advance of the draft, which will be held April 22-24.

Holmes' Twitter trail

Santonio Holmes is apparently as prolific Tweeting -- posting comments on the social networking site Twitter -- as he is on the field.

Perhaps more so. He has posted more than 1,100 tweets and has more than 12,600 followers. In at least one post he alluded to smoking marijuana -- "time to wake n bake," he wrote the morning of March 31.

Below is a list of other Holmes tweets:

Santonio Holmes is apparently as prolific Tweeting -- posting comments on the social networking site Twitter -- as he is on the field.

Perhaps more so. He has posted more than 1,100 tweets and has more than 12,600 followers. In at least one post he alluded to smoking marijuana -- "time to wake n bake," he wrote the morning of March 31.

Below is a list of other Holmes tweets:

• "forget the rap sheet check the stat sheet!" (Sunday)

• "You should not throw stones at a glass house!" (Sunday)

• "pitt is a great place to live n raise a family" (Sunday)

• "Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you're gonna get" (Saturday)

• "The star that burns brightest burns briefest." (April 1)

• "When you're a star shining so bright why worry about those who are planted on solid ground pointing fingers at something they can't reach!" (April 1)

• "Rumors spread like germs, don't know where they come from or how u got them!" (March 31)

• "U as fans would never learn! Remember u don't cut my check" (March 30)

• "My life is ur entertainment" (March 29)

• "Before anyone decides to state unknown fact please do research 1st. In the end it makes you look like the fool!" (March 29)

Another Twitter thread titled "Santonio was traded" surfaced today.

Among the posts people wrote speculating why the Steelers dealt Holmes:

• "4 all dem new cameras pittsburgh's gettn"

• "for a get out of jail free card in monopoly"

• "4 BEN's freedom"

Receiving targets?

The trade of Santonio Holmes on Monday means the Steelers could take a wide receiver with their first-round draft pick, No. 18 overall. Here are five of the top wide receiver prospects this year:

Player -- School -- Ht./Wt. -- Comment

Dez Bryant -- Oklahoma State -- 6-2/224 -- Elite receiver probably won't fall to Steelers even with concerns about off-the-field issues

DeMaryius Thomas -- Georgia Tech -- 6-3/224 -- Big-play threat but may have tough transition after playing in a triple-option offense in college

Golden Tate -- Notre Dame -- 5-10/199 -- 2009 Biletnikoff Award winner has been called a clone of Hines Ward

Arrelious Benn -- Illinois -- 6-1/219 -- Looks like he'll last through the first round, though he could go early in the second

Brandon LaFell -- LSU -- 6-3/211 -- Hasn't helped his draft stock since concluding a productive career at LSU but should still be a second- or third-round pick

Slim pickings

There are still some veteran wide receivers on the open market, though none who may be particularly appealing to the Steelers. Here are three wide receivers who are unrestricted free agents:

Player -- Ht./Wt. -- Comment

Terrell Owens -- 6-3/224 -- Six-time Pro Bowler is still an undeniable talent, but he's probably not a good fit with the Steelers

Kevin Curtis -- 6-0/186 -- Has played in just 12 games since turning in a 1,000-yard receiving season for the Eagles in 2007

Muhsin Muhammad -- 6-2/215 -- Production has slipped in recent years, and he turns 36 in early May

Still plenty of options?

Here are the wide receivers on the Steelers' roster following the trade of Santonio Holmes on Monday:

Hines Ward -- 13-year veteran is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons

Mike Wallace -- Led the Steelers in yards per catch (19.4) as a rookie in 2009

Antwaan Randle El -- May need to play a bigger role following trade of Holmes

Arnaz Battle -- Figures to make more of an impact on special teams in 2010

Limas Sweed -- Holmes' departure provides 2008 second-round pick with an opportunity

Stefan Logan -- Return specialist may also need to contribute elsewhere to make team in 2010

Tyler Grisham -- Signed with team as a rookie free agent in 2009 and played in four games

Jason Chery -- Spent part of 2009 season on the Panthers' practice squad

Brandon London -- Big target is trying to catch on in NFL after getting cut by the Giants and Dolphins

Joey Galloway -- Unrestricted free agent is 37 years old and caught just seven passes last season before Patriots released him

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