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83-Steelers-43
12-06-2006, 06:45 AM
Holmes, Smith to be in lineup vs. Browns
Steelers rookies have starting date
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Rookies Santonio Holmes and Anthony Smith will achieve something tomorrow night they will never get a chance to do again. They will make their first NFL start. They likely will remember it for a lifetime.

Although wrought by injuries, the starting assignments for the two rookies against Cleveland could be a peek into the future for the Steelers. Holmes replaces Cedrick Wilson at split end and Smith starts for Ryan Clark at free safety.

Holmes has played quite a bit his rookie season. He has alternated with Wilson on every third series much of the season and is second on the team with 33 receptions -- most among rookie receivers in the AFC -- good for 504 yards and a touchdown. But there's nothing like that first start.

"It's going to be something memorable, I know that much," said Holmes. "Just like my first touchdown, I remember everything that happened on that play. I remember running out of the tunnel for the first time. Everything's going to be there and I'm going to understand everything and remember that moment."

It will cap off a good week for Holmes, personally and professionally. On Monday, a judge in Columbus, Ohio, dismissed domestic violence charges against him, at the request of prosecutors.

"I can't ask for anything better right now, being in the position I'm in, being with the group of guys who have taught me all season," said Holmes, drafted with the 25th pick from Ohio State, the first receiver selected this year. "It's been a blessing right now. Getting a chance to get my first start is something I've been trying to work my way to and something I have to make the best of."

Smith hasn't had nearly as many snaps in the defense as Holmes has had on offense. He's played mostly on special teams. He played 21 defensive snaps, mostly in the dime defense, Nov. 12 against New Orleans and briefly in three other games before Clark was injured midway through the first quarter Sunday against Tampa Bay and Smith replaced him.

"Any guy who's played football dreams of his first [NFL] start," Smith said. "It's real exciting for me."

The Steelers traded their second-round draft choice in April for two third-round picks and chose Smith, from Syracuse, as the first of those. The free safety in Dick LeBeau's defense calls most of the defenses, but Smith will receive some help from starting strong safety Tyrone Carter, who is replacing injured Troy Polamalu for the second game in a row.

"Tyrone's played free safety as well, so he'll be doing a lot of talking out there and making sure everyone gets set," coach Bill Cowher said.

"But we're not going to change anything we're doing."

Only one of the two rookies will hear his name called before the game, depending on whether the offense or defense is introduced running out of the tunnel.

"That would be nice," Holmes said.

Some teammates remember their first starts as rookies.

"It's something special," linebacker Larry Foote said. "Your mind is racing and mentally you're spending too much time on what to do. Even though you're prepared, you're not trusting yourself and you don't want to hurt the team. But it's a good experience."

Foote was involved the most recent time two rookies made their first starts together for the Steelers. He and guard Kendall Simmons started in the second game of the 2002 season, against Oakland at home. Foote started in place of injured Kendrell Bell and did not become the full-time starter until 2004, when Bell was hurt again.

Simmons moved into the starting job at right guard permanently.

Other rookies who had starts since then were quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in '04 and three in '05 -- tight end Heath Miller, tackle Trai Essex and cornerback Bryant McFadden.

"I think I felt a little added pressure to kind of live up to the standard that was already set," Miller said of his first start in the first game of the season. "I really just didn't want to let the team down."

Essex's first start also was his first NFL play. He was inactive the first nine games and started the 10th in Baltimore because of an injury to left tackle Marvel Smith.

"They've had a little experience of what the game is like," Essex said of Holmes and Smith.

McFadden made his first start one year ago against Cincinnati at home. He had been playing in the nickel and dime defenses, but when the Bengals came out with multiple wide receivers to open the game, McFadden took the field for the first play as part of the dime package.

"That was probably a good thing; I didn't have time to think about it," McFadden said.

With a game just four days after their previous one, Holmes and Smith won't have much time either. That's OK with Holmes, who hasn't told any of his family or friends.

"None of them know I'm starting," he said. "I'm going to keep it quiet."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06340/743803-66.stm

NV STEELERS 723
12-06-2006, 06:43 PM
I like Santonio , but I can't understand why he has fumbled so many KR, and PR's, yet he can catch it over the middle and hang on?????

Black@Gold Forever32
12-06-2006, 06:48 PM
Yes finally see Smith as a starter. Really he should have started a few weeks ago when it became clear the Steelers season was over. The Steelers have to find out if these young guys can play or not. I hope Smith has a great game. I really like that kid alot.

polamalufan43
12-06-2006, 08:58 PM
I think Smith will do a great job tomorrow and has a career as a future starting DB. Holmes can be big, as long as he keeps his eyes down the middle and goes for it, but stays smart and plays smart.

~Polamalufan43:tt02:

24seven
12-06-2006, 09:45 PM
I've made the mistake of thinking Smith was Clark sometimes.. they both can hit hard and be in the right spot.. I think our youngsters need time now so were the shit in the future..