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Old 01-13-2009, 08:43 AM   #1
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Default Holmes flourishes in reduced role

Holmes flourishes in reduced role
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sometimes, you have to take a step back to go forward.

Santonio Holmes approached his third NFL season with high individual expectations that have since been replaced by team goals.

Taking one for the team, Holmes, who led the Steelers in receiving yards, yards per catch and touchdown receptions last season, is displaying a new, mature side to his game.

His numbers are down, but his enthusiasm is sky high. His acceptance of a reduced role behind Hines Ward in the passing game is genuine and much-needed for an offense that looks to be catching fire at the right time.

"I kept telling (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger), I kept telling the coaches I want to be the guy you go to on third down. 'If Hines is not open, Coach, throw me the ball,'" said Holmes, who finished second to Ward in receptions, touchdown receptions and receiving yards this season. "I want to be the one to make the plays."

Holmes never played bigger than he did in Sunday's 35-24 win over San Diego in a divisional playoff game at Heinz Field. Ironically, his most important play since joining the Steelers occurred on special teams.

When he took a punt return a franchise playoff-record 67 yards to the house in the first quarter to tie the score, 7-7, Holmes clearly understood the significance of his act.

"That's the play that sparked this team," said Holmes, who has enough confidence for 10 players. "If you can get a punt return or a special teams touchdown, that's what starts this team to believing."

Holmes has the wisdom to understand that even though the season didn't go as planned on a personal level, a Steelers win against Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field will elevate his status from up-and-coming receiver to clutch up-and-coming receiver.

Holmes had only two receptions for 25 yards against San Diego. However, both were good for first downs, including a 10-yard catch on a low throw on third-and-7 during a third-quarter scoring drive. He was targeted deep two other times, but Roethlisberger just missed him; once on a long pass that barely eluded his diving reach.

"I won't complain at all about him overthrowing me. That's what we've been asking for all season. If you're going to miss us, miss us deep," said Holmes, who had 55 receptions for 821 yards and five touchdowns this season. "Ben was letting it go. He even grabbed me and said, 'Tone, the arm is on fire. I'm trying to control it, but I'm letting it go for you guys.' The (catches) that I made, we needed those first downs."

Taking on the dreaded Ravens for the right of way to the Super Bowl, the Steelers are going to need Holmes as much as Holmes needs the Steelers.

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Old 01-13-2009, 08:50 AM   #2
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Default Re: Holmes flourishes in reduced role

"Ben was letting it go. He even grabbed me and said, 'Tone, the arm is on fire. I'm trying to control it, but I'm letting it go for you guys.'
Honestly, I shed a tear of joy reading this.
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