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10-28-2006, 12:05 AM
Youth served in Steelers lineup

By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, October 28, 2006


The big plays are starting to pile up for Santonio Holmes almost as quickly as muffs on punt returns.
Regarding his three muffs or fumbles on punt returns over the past two games, "that's football," Holmes said. "It happens."

The big plays, likewise, are no big deal.

And nothing the Steelers' No. 1 pick hasn't expected from himself all along.

"They drafted me for a reason," Holmes said. "I gotta get out here and play when they put me on the field."

The same goes for guard Chris Kemoeatu and cornerback Bryant McFadden, two second-year players who have gotten their first taste of starting in the NFL this season.

The on-the-job training for all three figures to continue to some degree on Sunday against the Raiders.

Holmes had been alternating with veteran Cedrick Wilson in two-wide receivers sets since the Steelers' 23-13 loss on Oct. 8 in San Diego.

Last Sunday in Atlanta, Holmes took over in the third quarter after Wilson tweaked a groin late in the second. Wilson still played in extra-receivers formations in the second half, but Holmes played more with the first-team offense than he had all season and finished with career-high totals of five catches for 91 yards.

One of them went for 36 yards down the sideline late in the second quarter and set up a touchdown, as his 50-yard reception had on Oct. 15 against Kansas City.

Holmes also has produced a 24-yard punt return and a 42-yard kickoff return over the last two games.

"The more opportunities I get, those guys (quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch) are starting to gain a lot of trust in me," Holmes said. "And I'm working my butt off so those guys can gain trust in me, so they can throw me the ball when they need a big play."

A similar rotation is developing at right guard.

Kemoeatu, a former sixth-round pick, filled in for veteran Kendall Simmons (foot) against the Chiefs, then split time with Simmons in Atlanta.

Coach Bill Cowher has said he might continue to use both players at the position in Oakland.

With Simmons available again in Atlanta, Kemoeatu said he was surprised he played against the Falcons.

He also didn't think his strong showing against the Chiefs had anything to do with it.

"I don't know if I showed them something," Kemoeatu said. "I'm at practice every week. They know what I can do."

Simmons started against Atlanta, gave way to Kemoeatu in the second quarter, played the first two series of the third quarter and then was given the rest of the afternoon off.

The Steelers allowed two sacks in three snaps on their first series of the third quarter.

On the second, Roethlisberger was knocked out of the game and Willie Parker lost a fumble.

That was it for Simmons.

"Mentally and physically I'm fine," Simmons said.

Kemoeatu doesn't know how playing time will be distributed against the Raiders, and doesn't want to know.

"I don't know when I play until (offensive line coach) Russ (Grimm) tells me to go in there," Kemoeatu said. "I don't know what the deal is. And I haven't asked him, and I'm not going to."

McFadden has started the last two games in place of Deshea Townsend, who assumed McFadden's previous role as a nickel back in passing situations while recovering from a hamstring injury.

McFadden said he didn't find out he was starting last Sunday until after the Steelers' team plane touched down in Atlanta.

Cowher said McFadden and Townsend received an equal amount of work this week in practice, as did Kemoeatu and Simmons.

"I was just trying to fill in and be dependable," McFadden said. "I think I did a couple positive things.

"I'm starting to get more comfortable. I'm trying to be more consistent."

Eight isn't enough

The Steelers have had eight pass plays of more than 20 yards so far this season. The plays are as follows:


Yards Combination Opponent

*87 QB Charlie Batch to TE Heath Miller Miami

*70 Batch to WR Hines Ward Atlanta

50 QB Ben Roethlisberger to WR Santonio Holmes Kansas City

49 Batch to WR Nate Washington Atlanta

*47 Roethlisberger to Washington Kansas City

36 Roethlisberger to WR Cedrick Wilson Cincinnati

36 Roethlisberger to Holmes Atlanta

32 Roethlisberger to RB Najeh Davenport San Diego


*--Touchdown

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