Steelers trades: Moving from the bottom up for a future Super Bowl hero

Gregory Shamus

The Steelers moved from the last pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft to take a future Super Bowl MVP.

With the annual NFL Draft on the horizon, it brings to mind some maneuvering that paid huge dividends for all involved, while others just didn't pan out for any teams or the players who were traded.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off a Super Bowl victory after the 2005 season and held the 32nd pick in the first round during the 2006 NFL Draft, but that wasn't nearly high enough.

So, the Steelers decided to trade up. They sent that first-round choice, along with third- and fourth-round selections to the New York Giants for the No. 25 spot in the first round. And with that pick, the Steelers selected Ohio State wide receiver Santonio Holmes. This was a huge deal for the Steelers, because they did not have a second-round choice after sending it to the Minnesota Vikings, who took quarterback Tarvaris Jackson from Alabama State University.

The Giants used those three picks to take Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka with the 32nd overall selection in the first round, Georgia Tech linebacker Gerris Wilkinson with the 96th overall choice in the third round and East Carolina offensive tackle Guy Whimper in the 129th overall spot in the fourth round. Kiwanuka and Whimper are still in the league, while Wilkinson played five seasons for the Giants (2006-10).

Whimper, interestingly enough, played last season for the Steelers after three each with the Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars. He missed the 2008 season with an injury, but has been a solid backup offensive lineman during his seven NFL seasons. Kiwanuka, who has two Super Bowl rings with the Giants, has 36 career sacks in eight NFL seasons and 71 starts in 109 career games. Wilkinson had seven starts in 58 career games.

Holmes ended up being more trouble than he was worth due to several off-field issues and a generally surly attitude, but he was critical to the Steelers' Super Bowl run after the 2008 season. He also caught the game-winning touchdown toss from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to beat the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23, in Super Bowl 43. Holmes played for the Steelers in 2009, his fourth with the club, but after receiving a four-game suspension to open the 2010 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy he was traded to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick.

Holmes arguably was among the best No. 2 wideouts in the league during his time with the Steelers, behind Hines Ward, with 235 catches and 20 touchdowns during those four seasons. Holmes had 79 receptions for 1,248 yards and five scores in 2009 and recorded 48 starts in 60 games during that time. Holmes also returned kickoffs as a rookie and ran back punts three of the four Steelers seasons. He averaged 24.2 yards per kickoff return and about eight yards per punt return with a 65-yard runback for a touchdown as a rookie.

Both the Steelers and Giants made out in this draft-day trade. The Giants got three solid players, including an above-average one in Kiwanuka, while the Steelers might not have won the Super Bowl after the 2008 season without Holmes. The Steelers were 8-8 when Holmes was a rookie and 9-7 during his final season. They won two straight AFC North titles in 2007-08 (10-6 and 12-4), so the Steelers didn't actually burn up the league with him in their lineup. But they could have been much worse without him.

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