"That's how you be great"- Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl XLIII
Love him or hate him, Santonio Holmes' finger prints are, quite literally, all over one of the greatest moments in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
His 131 yard, one touchdown performance against the Cardinals earned him a Super Bowl MVP. His tip-toed beauty of a catch in the corner of the end zone earned him the love and adulation of Steelers fans from then until eternity.
The phrase "it's time to be great" will echo down the years to future generations as they revel in the glory and success of the 2008 Steelers.
Yes, Santonio Holmes has left an indelible mark on this franchise, and we are all the better for it.
And hey, let's not forget Holmes wasn't a one hit wonder, he was a good player. Sure, the pageantry of the Super Bowl and his glorious heroics there served to inflate every ones opinion of his worth beyond what was reasonable, but Holmes' career trajectory was pointing way, way up with the Pittsburgh Steelers
I mean way, way up.
So what the hell happened to Santonio Holmes?
Well, I suppose it could probably be put best by saying Holmes was just an idiot. A complete moron.
He got caught with possession of marijuana, he got suspended for taking marijuana, and he tweeted about taking marijuana. Those are just the headlines in a laundry list of transgressions that started more or less a month after he was drafted.
Holmes was, essentially, a lot of trouble. So much trouble that a 1,200 yard season, a Super Bowl MVP and a career defining catch couldn't save him from being traded. He was in fact so much trouble that the Steelers front office were willing to accept a 5th round pick for their former 2006 first round pick. I believe they were actually willing to cut him outright regardless.
I mean honestly, how far past "I'm so done with this guy" would you have to be to trade a Super Bowl MVP for a 5th round pick? Pretty far would be my guess.
So Holmes found himself on the up and coming Jets, and after serving a four game suspension earned himself a nice little pay day, to the tune of 5 years $50 million.
Sadly things never came together in New York. Holmes never reached 1000 yards in any of his four seasons with the Jets. Injuries essentially robbed him of his season in both 2012 and 2013.
On top of injury misery, Holmes didn't appear to make any substantial strides toward mature adulthood. The words locker room cancer were used to describe him. That's quite a scathing indictment of his character any way you look at it.
Due to an untenable cap number heading into 2014, and possibly outstaying his welcome once again Holmes was cut by the Jets.
Which brings us here...Holmes is a free agent and reportedly has expressed interest in rejoining the Steelers. Well, according to Ike Taylor anyway.
Many believe Holmes, through a cloud of smoke, burnt all his bridges in Pittsburgh long ago and is no longer welcome. Others believe his talent is simply not worth the headache that seems to inevitably follow, what is there possibly to be gained from bringing him into camp?
The Steelers as it stands actually have a fairly robust, if untested receiving corps. Antonio Brown, Lance Moore, Marcus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant have all virtually locked down a roster spot. On the roster bubble are Justin Brown, Derek Moye and Darrius Heyward-Bey. That's not mentioning Dri Archer, because I don't know what he is.
It promises to be a very competitive and interesting camp battle as it is, so whats the need for Holmes?
Well, first off Holmes isn't exactly over the hill. He just turned 30, and has at times in his four years in New York flashed that dynamic play-maker we all know and love. He can probably still get it done, and I wouldn't be suggesting signing him unless I believed he can be a difference maker in our offense. If he's useless or lame, cut him.
He's also just suffered what must be a very humbling and sobering experience. He has been cut, and absolutely no one seems to want him. Perhaps this will teach him the value of humility, being a team player and all that good character stuff you hear about on NFL Films. He's older and hopefully wiser this time around, maybe to an extent where he won't shoot himself in the foot. If he's still an idiot, cut him.
As previously alluded to, the Steelers wide receiver corps is looking very green heading into camp. Outside of Brown and Moore, the Steelers have very little experience or playing time to speak of. Holmes has been to the mountain top and back, he's seen and done it all. Besides, when he played for the Steelers Roethlisberger and Holmes clicked. There's no other word for it, they just clicked. That chemistry is still there, lying dormant and ready to be ignited.
Having him could be what the offense needs to replace Cotchery and Sanders, an experienced player capable of a big play who also has Roethlisberger's trust. Above and beyond that, having him in camp pushing the younger guys is only going to be a positive.
As for pay, If he does want to return to Pittsburgh then he won't be expecting a chunk of cash, and particularly not much in the way of guaranteed money. Not to say he'll offer a hometown discout or anything of that nature but It's not as if there's a line of suitors queuing up outside his agents door looking to offer him $5 million a year. That alone might make him accept a more realistic market based deal. If he is amenable to such a deal that minimise the Steelers risk and makes cutting him nice and simple then I see no reason not too at least strongly consider it.
Perhaps Santonio has burned any bridge that was once available to him in Pittsburgh. Four years may be too soon for head coach Mike Tomlin to bury the hatchet, so to speak. He may also want more money than the Steelers are willing to offer, his pride after all has never seemed lacking. Or indeed another team could outbid the Steelers for Holmes services.
But coming home to the team that drafted him, a team that he helped take all the way to a championship, that could be exactly what Holmes needs to re-energise his fledgling career. A familiar setting, hall of fame level quarterback and a fan base that would be (largely) behind him.
Also, I will admit a part of me just wants to see #10 suit up in the Black and Gold again.
Come on home Santonio, it's time to see if you can still be great.