You know, I wasn’t exactly anticipating that we would be seeing a retirement press conference for Santonio Holmes with the Pittsburgh Steelers any time soon, but hey, I’m not going to complain about the opportunity to take a bit of a trip down memory lane.
After all, while his tenure in Pittsburgh may at times have been tumultuous, and the parting was not exactly on the greatest of terms, Holmes is and will forever be an integral part of the Steelers’ championship legacy, which is something that nobody, and nothing, can ever take away from him, or from the annals of team history.
The 25th-overall draft pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, he was able to work his way into the starting lineup by the end of his rookie season, ending up with 49 receptions—on an offense that did not throw the ball as much as it does today—for 824 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Though he missed three games in his sophomore season, he still came up just 58 yards shy of a 1000-yard season on 52 receptions, with eight touchdowns, leading the team in most of those receiving categories.
But it was his 2008 season that will be forever remembered—or to be more accurate, the postseason run. The Steelers’ offense during the 2009 regular season was meager at best, to be frank, behind a piecemeal offensive line bereft of its former talent, injuries at running back (hello, Mewelde Moore), and a quarterback that was constantly banged up, despite never missing a game.
Holmes served a one-game suspension on a drug violation imposed by the team, and had his personal and professional ups and downs, but I think the stat line of 9-131-1 is something that a lot of Steelers fans would be able to identify without much thought.
It was Holmes’ stat line in the Super Bowl that year—nine receptions for 131 yards and the game-winning touchdown. It was a performance to remember, for certain, and one of the great catches in NFL history, deservedly earning him the MVP of the game.
He finally got his 1000-yard season a year later in 2009, in fact posting career-highs with 79 receptions for 1248 yards, but it was in many ways an ugly season. Through team turmoil, he had issues staying a team player, and he lashed out publicly at fans on social media.
With free agency pending in a year’s time, and a drug suspension awaiting him, the Steelers surprisingly—at the time—dealt him away for a fifth-round draft pick that they ended up parlaying into Bryant McFadden and a sixth-round pick that they used to draft some small-school underclassman wide receiver named Antonio Brown.
Through five years with the Jets and Bears, Holmes continued to have his personal and professional highs and lows, but three years after his last snap, he does seem—at least to an outsider like me—to have found some inner peace as he hits his mid-30s, and it’s good to see that he and Steeler Nation have embraced once again. He was going to be a part of that tapestry whether anybody liked it or not.