Second, and even more shocking, were the reports of what the Steelers got from the Jets in return: a 5th-round draft pick.
Just to recap, Santonio Holmes(notes) is 26 years old, a former first-round draft pick, has racked up 3,835 receiving yards in his four years in the league, become a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger(notes) and, oh yeah, won a Super Bowl MVP.
And all he could fetch in a trade was a 5th-rounder?
Sure, Santonio may have some substance-related issues, and he may enjoy some inappropriate beverage-hurling, but still, a fifth-round pick? That seems closer to the asking price for Limas Sweed(notes) than Santonio Holmes.
It's a nice acquisition for the Jets, but for a lot of reasons, it's a much bigger deal for Pittsburgh. Let's start with on-the-field repercussions. This weakens the Steelers, without question. Rookie third receiver Mike Wallace(notes) was impressive last year and everything, but let's not get carried away: He's had one year, in which he made 39 catches as a number three receiver on whom no one was focusing their defense. That is not the same as producing Santonio-like stats as a number two.
And I always felt like there was great on-field chemistry between Ben Roethlisberger and Holmes. So many times when Roethlisberger ran for his life and extended a play about 8 seconds beyond its original design, he looked at Holmes to get open and bail him out. Holmes had the physical skills and the right mindset to play with a quarterback who improvises as much as Roethlisberger.
For a team that features the passing game as heavily as the Steelers, this is a very bold move. It's a risk.
So why take it? Well, the most likely thing is that the Steelers felt they had to do it. With all the recent negative headlines surrounding the team, I guess they felt like they had to send a message to potential troublemakers: If you behave like an idiot, you cannot be a Pittsburgh Steeler.
I still question taking the short end of the stick in a trade in order to make that point, but, you know, if a point's got to be made ... they just made it with authority.
Ideally, this works out for the Steelers a lot like it did when they let Plaxico Burress(notes) leave as a free agent. After one Plaxico-free year, they drafted Holmes, and they were immediately back to having a fearsome duo at wide receiver. If everything goes perfectly, Wallace steps into that role now, and he and Ward are still a receiving force to be reckoned with.
More importantly, the message (which SI's Peter King has already described as "shot across the bow to Big Ben") gets through, too, and the Steelers can take a baby step back towards being viewed as an organization that only employs football players of decent character.
UPDATE: ESPN is reporting that Holmes will be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season.
- Santonio Holmes
- Ben Roethlisberger
- the Steelers