View Full Version : Another happy ending for Holmes

11-19-2006, 11:15 PM
Former Ohio State star came up big for the Steelers in the 4th quarter
Monday, November 20, 2006

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

CLEVELAND -- When they played the song "Hang On Sloopy" at various times yesterday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, prompting the crowd to stand and spell "O-H-I-O" with their arms, Santonio Holmes felt like he was back in Columbus, Ohio.

When he caught his first National Football League touchdown on a 20-yard catch to start the Steelers' 21-point fourth-quarter comeback, Holmes looked as though he were back playing at Ohio State.

And when he watched Browns receiver Braylon Edwards go up and narrowly miss catching a Hail Mary pass at the end of each half, including the final heave into the end zone that almost gave the Cleveland Browns a pulsating victory, well, he really felt like he was back with the Buckeyes.

"Man, I was scared, because I know what type of player he is," Holmes said. "I played against him for three years and I know what kind of talent he has. Both of those plays just came up short and I was so happy he wasn't able to hold on to the ball."

In the end, Ohio State beat Michigan again.

Edwards, who played at Michigan, had seven catches for 137 yards, but he didn't catch either of Charlie Frye's desperation passes that could have provided a different outcome for the Browns.

Holmes, who played at Ohio State, dropped the first pass thrown his way -- his first drop this season -- and had another skip off his outstretched right hand that was returned 57 yards for a touchdown. But he atoned with his first NFL touchdown on a broken play and also added a big catch to convert a third-and-20, helping the Steelers rally three times from 10-point deficits to post an unlikely 24-20 victory against the Browns.

"It felt great to come back to Ohio and get my first touchdown and play well for the team and make big plays," Holmes said.

It was something of a homecoming for Holmes, playing in the state where he starred as a collegian and became the first receiver selected in the NFL draft. Sure, he will be closer to the Ohio State campus when the Steelers play in Cincinnati on New Year's Eve, but the big plays he made against the Browns felt just as sweet as if he made them 21/2 hours away in Columbus.

Maybe because the crowd kept getting serenaded yesterday with "Hang on Sloopy" -- Ohio State's trademark theme song -- a tribute to the Buckeyes' 42-39 victory against No. 2 Michigan a day earlier.

"I was right with those guys every time they were going O-H-I-O," Holmes said. "Oh, man, I was pumped up the whole game. When I got a chance to go out for warmups and the fans behind us were doing 'O-H,' I was hitting them with 'I-O.' "

Maybe it was the excitement that caused Holmes to drop his first pass -- though he hasn't been so lucky with punts and kickoffs -- since the preseason.

Maybe it was the reason he had a high pass on second down from the Browns' 47 skip off his right hand and get returned 57 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Daven Holly ("Just a misread between me and Ben," Holmes said.)

After that, though, Holmes made the kind of plays he made at Ohio State, catching four of his five passes in the fourth quarter, including the one to jump-start the comeback. When it was all over, he stood at his stall in the locker room, seemingly enjoying the events of the weekend.

"It was a little exciting to be on the sideline and be back in the state of Ohio," Holmes said.

It was Holmes who probably kept the Steelers on life-support and gave them their first back-to-back victories of the season when he caught a 21-yard pass on third-and-20 early in the fourth quarter. The Steelers were backed to their 19 after an offensive pass interference penalty against Cedrick Wilson, but Ben Roethlisberger found Holmes in the middle of the field to keep the drive alive.

"Huge," said offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. "It got us going."

"We had to get past the stick and I was able to break free and scramble for the quarterback," Holmes said. "It was an all-over-the-field, running-deep-to-get-to-the-sticks route."

Five plays later, Roethlisberger improvised again, and so did Holmes.

On third-and-6 at the Cleveland 20, trailing 13-3, Roethlisberger rolled right, stepped back left to avoid pressure and started running right again, this time toward the Browns sideline. Holmes, who had run a short route in the right flat, took off to the left, then ran to his right when he saw his quarterback on the move.

Roethlisberger saw Holmes come open and threw across his body on the run, hitting him at the 3 and producing a 20-yard touchdown. It was the final play of an 87-yard drive, but it was the first of many produced by Roethlisberger in a 21-point fourth quarter.

"I saw Ben get flushed out of the pocket and I had to continue to keep moving and fighting for a big play," Holmes said. "I ran around about three or four times trying to get open.

"It's the same thing I had to do on third-and-long -- I had to scramble just like he did to make a big play. I got the defender going one way and with Ben, we were on the same page. I cut back and made a great catch and had a chance to get in the end zone."

Holmes put his arms in the air after reaching the end zone. He wasn't spelling O-H-I-O.

Just TD.