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Old 09-11-2009, 06:56 AM   #1
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Default Harris: Ben-to-Holmes TD turns back the clock

Harris: Ben-to-Holmes TD turns back the clock

By John Harris
Friday, September 11, 2009

Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes got reacquainted Thursday night in the Steelers' season opener at Heinz Field.

When last seen on the same field in a game of consequence, Roethlisberger and Holmes made mincemeat of Arizona's defense on the way to winning Super Bowl XLIII thanks to a gorgeous 6-yard touchdown pass in the closing minutes.

Picking up where they left off, Roethlisberger and Holmes sparked an offense that fizzled against the Tennessee Titans for most of the first half.

Ironically, Holmes finished Thursday's game with 9 catches for 131 yards in the Steelers' 13-10 overtime win - the same stat line he recorded in Super Bowl XLII.

Late in the first half, the Steelers gave Roethlisberger the keys to the offense while Holmes rode shotgun.

On what was clearly the Steelers' most productive possession of the first half, Roethlisberger motored the offense 79 yards in only five plays - all passes.

Using the no-huddle to give Tennessee's defenders less time to prepare for the next snap, Roethlisberger zipped a 12-yard pass to Holmes on second down.

Following a 4-yard pass to Mewelde Moore, Roethlisberger hooked up with Hines Ward over the middle for 29 yards.

With less than two minutes remaining before halftime, the Steelers didn't have time to waste. Turning back the clock to last February in Tampa, Fla., Roethlisberger dialed up a play that worked often in the Super Bowl win: a big pass to Holmes.

It was a refreshing change from preseason, when Holmes played in only two games because of a back injury and had just one reception while being ignored in the offense.

Facing zone coverage, Holmes lined up on the right side. When the ball was snapped, Holmes slanted toward the middle of the field, and away from cornerback coverage. When Holmes beat the safety inside Tennessee's 5-yard line, he was so open he could have eaten a tuna fish sandwich while waiting to make the catch.

"I shouldn't say this, but I was smiling the whole time I went down the field once I beat that guy," Holmes said.

Holmes easily snagged the 34-yard touchdown for his first score of the season and the 16th in his career.

Ben, say hello to Santonio. Santonio, Ben.

By all rights, the first half was essentially the Ben and Santonio show on offense.

Roethlisberger was impressive, completing 15-of-21 passes for 180 yards in the opening 30 minutes. But he lost 36 yards on three sacks. The Steelers amassed 156 total yards because they rushed for a pathetic 12 yards on 10 carries. Holmes had five receptions for 83 yards.

Sadly, the work-in-progress offensive line needs work.

Not that we didn't already know that. Not that we're surprised.

However, given all the money the Steelers spent in the offseason to keep the line intact, is it asking too much for them to open a few holes and not get Roethlisberger beat up in the first game?

If the answer is no, it could be a long season.

Last night showed the Steelers offense at its best and worst.

When Roethlisberger was in rhythm with Holmes, the offense was a thing of beauty.

No matter how much the Steelers want to run the ball, the coaching staff may have to re-visit those plans and fill the air with footballs.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

Images and text copyright 2009 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
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