Thread: A New No. 1?
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Old 10-25-2007, 10:26 AM   #1
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Default A New No. 1?

By Dale Lolley
Posted Oct 25, 2007

PITTSBURGH ? Much of the focus on this weekend?s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bengals in Cincinnati will be on the star wide receivers each team has.

Cincinnati?s duo of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh have been as productive as any tandem in the league over the past two seasons, while Pittsburgh?s Hines Ward is a four-time Pro Bowl player and the team?s all-time leader in receptions.
And then there?s the Steelers? Santonio Holmes.

He might not get the publicity of the others, but Holmes has proven this season to be as valuable as nearly any wide receiver in the league.

And when the Steelers (4-2) face the Bengals (2-4), it could be the receiver nobody is talking about who makes the difference. Holmes has scored at least one touchdown in each of his previous three games in Ohio ? where he starred collegiately at Ohio State ? a streak he even extended in the preseason, when he caught a touchdown pass in this year?s Hall of Fame game.

But this season, Holmes has been performing well not only in Ohio, but everywhere else as well.

In five games ? he missed one with a hamstring injury three weeks ago against Seattle ? Holmes has 20 receptions for 339 yards and four touchdowns.

In his last 16 games, Holmes has caught 60 passes for 1,032 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers are very comparable to the 83 catches for 1,079 yards and six touchdowns that Ward has in his last 16 games.

Are we seeing a changing of the guard as the Steelers? No. 1 receiver?

?It hasn?t been something I?ve been looking for or thinking about, but it has been something that I want to work toward being,? said Holmes. ?I want to be the No. 1 receiver on this team. When Hines is gone, we?re going to need someone to step up.?

The Steelers? top pick in last year?s draft, Holmes has gained the trust of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Part of the reason for that has been Holmes? ability to learn the nuances of the game.

In his rookie season, Holmes was basically little more than a deep threat. But this season, Holmes is valuable in all facets of the offense.

?Because he?s grown and matured so much, he?s been a guy who has been able to learn from Hines and become an underneath guy ? a guy who can catch the ball in zones and do more with the ball after the catch,? said Roethlisberger. ?Before, he was a guy who could just take off, go deep. He can still do that, obviously, as we?ve seen. But like I said, he?s been really good at understanding coverages and what he?s supposed to do on every play.?

The days of double-teaming Ward and shutting down the Steelers? passing game, it would seem, are over.

?Teams are going to double-team Hines or even triple-team him, however, we need someone to step up,? Holmes said. ?I want to be that guy.?

Before too long, it could be Holmes who is getting all of the double-coverage.

?Teams are going to start saying we can?t let this guy get behind us,? Holmes said. ?We?ve got to throw some different coverages at him, things that they do to other receivers who have been explosive like myself, they?re going to start doing it more to me.?

Clark?s dilemma

The next time the Steelers play in Denver, free safety Ryan Clark might be wise to take the week off.

Clark, who has the sickle cell anemia trait ? not the disease ? stayed in Denver Sunday night after the Steelers? 31-28 loss to the Broncos. Clark suffered spleenic infarction with altitude hypoxio, which was brought on by the strenuous exertion of playing a football game.

?I had the same thing happen to me when I was with Washington and we played in Denver,? said Clark. ?(Washington?s doctors) diagnosed it a little differently. They thought it was just a contusion. We?re learning more about it now and ways to prevent it.?

Clark, who didn?t feel ill until the bus ride to the airport following the game, has not been cleared to play. If he doesn?t, Anthony Smith would start in his place.

Calling Frazier

When the Bengals released outside linebacker Andre Frazier earlier this season, the Steelers wasted no time signing him back to their roster, doing so the following day.

Have the Pittsburgh coaches been picking Frazier?s brain this week to find out any Cincinnati secrets?

?To be honest, not really,? said Frazier. ?They haven?t really said anything. I guess we?ll just worry about what we?re going to do and do what we do well.?

Ending the streak

The last time Aaron Smith missed a football game, Bill Clinton was still in the White House.

But Smith?s consecutive games played streak of 121 games that began in 1999 will likely come to an end Sunday as he?s expected to miss the game with a sprained left knee.

?This isn?t exactly what I wanted,? Smith admitted. ?I haven?t watched a game since my rookie year. It?s not a lot of fun.?

How do his teammates feel Smith will handle watching a game from the bench?

?The doctors will probably have to drug him,? laughed defensive
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