Santonio Holmes Gets Plaxico'd By Pittsburgh Steelers

Todd FlemingAnalyst IApril 13, 2010

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 6: Santonio Holmes #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers weaves his way past Tyvon Branch #33 and Stanford Routt #26 of the Oakland Raiders after catching a pass in the fourth quarter during the game on December 6, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

In 2004, the Steelers had arguably the best receiving corps in football, highlighted by the ever dependable Hines Ward still in his prime and the matchup nightmare that was Plaxico Burress.

Burress was easiliy one of the best wide receivers in football, a player with a rare blend of size, speed, and athleticism. In terms of talent, he justified the number eight overall pick used on him.

He was almost uncoverable against man coverage with his ability to go up and get the ball.  He may have been the single most talented receiver to ever play for the Steelers.

But, Burress was also a head case. His favorite pasttimes were skipping meetings and violating team rules. He spent much of his time getting into trouble.

And so he was allowed to leave the Steelers for the Giants, where he was instrumental in helping them win a Super Bowl before a further meltdown ruined his career.

Despite losing one of the best players in football, the Steelers management practically danced in celebration when he was no longer a member of the team.

The very next season, the Steelers won the Super Bowl, despite a much less talented receiving corps. The problem with Burress on the Steelers wasn't just his off-field troubles.

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It was his attitude. He acted like Pittsburgh was too small of a town for him, as if the team was privileged to have him as opposed to the other way around. Does that sound at all familiar?

Fast forward to this week. The Steelers just made a similar decision on Santonio Holmes, trading him away to the New York Jets for a bag of hockey pucks, which would probably be slightly more valuable than the fifth round pick they actually received.

What do the Jets get as part of the deal? They get an explosive and high impact receiver who immediately improves their offense. They also get plenty of baggage that comes with the receiver.

In the short-term, Holmes will almost certainly improve the Jets. But, in the long-term, he will likely cause them plenty of headaches before it is all said and done.

The fall of Holmes is disappointing because I thought he was turning the corner. As a guy who grew up under the worst of circumstances, some bumps along the way were to be expected when the Steelers drafted him.

But, there comes a point when that is no longer justification for thuggish behavior. For the Steelers, Holmes apparently reached and exceeded that point.

I'm a little surprised, and disappointed, that the Steelers didn't get more in return for the first round talent. I would have liked to see them wait until the draft before trading him, since a wide receiver needy team who didn't get the prospect they wanted in the first couple rounds may have given up a bit more to get him.  The move to unload him seems rushed. 

Despite his off-field issues, I expected he would at least warrant a third round pick in return, unless the Steelers are trying to set a record for the most picks in the fifth round in a single season. They are now up to four.

As with Plaxico, I think Holmes' attitude was every bit as instrumental in causing the Steelers to part ways with the troubled receiver as his more documented off-field troubles. He said he wanted to play for a bigger market team and, walla, the Steelers jetted him to New York.

I don't think the reason the team traded Holmes away had anything to do with not wanting to pay him.

This means that the Steelers have a lot of faith in Mike Wallace to step in and be an impact receiver and in Antwaan Randle El to fill the slot receiver need. It also may give a new lease on life to Limas Sweed, who appeared all but finished as a Steelers' prospect.

What I hope this doesn't mean is that the Steelers will spend a first round pick on a receiver. They have too many needs at the moment to afford to do that. In fact, I hope this doesn't affect their draft much at all, with the preference that they pick a couple developmental receivers later in the draft.

Wide receiver has been a quirky position in terms of the draft in recent years. A lot of guys drafted high have failed miserably while plenty of guys drafted low, or not at all, have excelled, guys like Miles Austin and Marques Colston.

For a while there, it seemed like the Lions drafted a new bust receiver at the top of every draft.  The rest of the team got progressively worse while the receiving corps remained a mess.

Based on how wrong scouts have been in ranking receivers, it may very well be the hardest position to evaulate.

I think receiver is quickly becoming the most replaceable position on a team.  There simply are a lot of great receiveirs coming out of college these days and they have been there for the taking in the middle and latter stages of most recent drafts.

However, other positions of need for the Steelers are very hard to replace, such as their need for an impact cornerback, a blue chip tackle or interior lineman, and a pass rushing defensive lineman who can stand up against the run or a replacement nose tackle.

Great players at these positions are much tougher to find and these guys are typically not available late in a draft. These should remain their focus points going into the draft.