Seeing ex-Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes return to play his former team always drew catcalls from fans. There's always a sense of ownership, almost family, when it comes to the players who used to wear their team's uniforms. There's an inherent sense of "we know him better than you."
Steelers fans don't know much about cornerback Brice McCain, who will start for the struggling Cortez Allen Monday when the Steelers host the Houston Texans in Week 7. What we know is McCain played well in Houston in 2011, well enough to earn a contract extension from the team.
It went downhill after that.
Stepping past the signs of a similar downfall currently underway for Allen, McCain was eventually released from the Texans after struggling mightily over the next two seasons, and he wound up in Pittsburgh on a one-year Prove It contract. He's getting his opportunity now, making his first start of the season against his former team.
Based on the reactions of Texans fans from SB Nation's Texans site, Battle Red Blog, in response to news of McCain starting that game, one gathers the immediate sense they're happy he's gone and even more happy he'll go against them in this game.
It's certainly understandable. McCain was ranked among the worst cornerbacks in the NFL from 2012-13, and the reaction of Steelers' fans wasn't all that different when the Black-and-Gold faced Mike Wallace and the Miami Dolphins last season (Wallace had two catches on five targets for 19 yards in that game...just sayin').
But it was all love when James Harrison faced the Steelers as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals twice last year, and then quite a very different reaction when Holmes returned as a member of the Jets twice in 2010, including in the AFC Championship game.
The script is set for McCain, having the opportunity to go against his former team and to help bolster his case for a bigger contract this off-season, whether in Pittsburgh or elsewhere. It would seem now he'll have to do quite a bit during the remainder of the year to get anything close to what he got from Houston in his extension, but the Steelers aren't exactly burdened with scores of talented cornerbacks right now.
This is a big game for him, regardless of what Texans fans feel. He performed well enough to earn a contract extension once, and Monday will be another chance for him to prove he's worth it.