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Santonio Holmes Deal Changes Pittsburgh Steelers' Draft Outlook

Nick DeWitt@@nickdewitt11Analyst IApril 13, 2010

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:   Wide Receiver Dez Bryant  #1 of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys catches the ball and runs in for a touchdown against the University of Oregon Ducks during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Chalk yesterday up to being one of those bad days to be a fan of a sports franchise. First, a star is traded for a low return, and then another star is badly marginalized in the press for an unfortunate and ridiculous incident of his own creation.

Time to clear the air.

The trade of Santonio Holmes by the Pittsburgh Steelers could have several far-reaching effects, not the least of which would be to alter the team's strategy in the upcoming draft.

Looking back at the news items from the Steelers in recent weeks (at least those not having to do with pending court cases), it's easy to see that the groundwork for what is to come may have been laid long before Holmes disappeared from the roster.

First of all, let's quickly address that deal.

Everyone in Pittsburgh is screaming about trading a Super Bowl MVP for a fifth round draft choice.

Stop to consider this: it was better than getting nothing.

Holmes will be suspended the first four games of next season. His contract was up after the season. The Steelers could have let him play out 12 games and then crossed their fingers for a compensatory draft choice. They'd also have to cross their fingers that Holmes stayed out of trouble long enough to become someone else's problem.

This is not a team that takes those kinds of risks or harbors those kinds of players. Drug problems are something the Steelers have often dealt with by unloading a player (see Bam Morris). This is just more of the same.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported yesterday that the Steelers were ready to release Holmes should they not get a taker in a trade, so getting a fifth rounder for him doesn't seem so bad. Now, Holmes is someone else's worry.

Our worry? Finding a replacement.

The Steelers have a number of avenues to explore. They could look to acquire someone in trade, but that can be dismissed almost immediately. That's not how Pittsburgh does business.

They could promote Mike Wallace to a starting spot and move Antwaan Randle El to the familiar third spot and hope for the best. This is entirely possible and not altogether unattractive.

Or, they could draft Dez Bryant, who's expected to be available at least near where they pick (18th overall) in the first round of the draft.

Bryant comes with some baggage, but his is not nearly as serious as that of Holmes. Bryant doesn't have a drug record (that we know of) and he seems to be past his character issues.

He's talented to be sure and could be the perfect replacement for the malcontent Holmes.

The Steelers have been courting Bryant, so it is not out of the question that they'd find a way to draft him. I, for one, would be excited to have a player of that caliber in Pittsburgh.

If he is the guy, then the most likely scenario during the season would be for him to slot into the third spot behind Hines Ward and Wallace and work his way into the starting lineup.

The Steelers could also use one of their other 10 selections on a receiver or two, but the most likely and most attractive scenario would be to get Bryant early and then start fixing the defense.

If Bryant comes off the board, I look for them to return to fixing the cornerback position (Kyle Wilson anyone?) and to select a receiver in the second or, more likely, third round.

The good news is that, with Randle El, Wallace, and Arnaz Battle, the Steelers still have a deep corps of receivers opposite and behind Ward.

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