In Dealing Holmes to New York, Steelers Have Lost Their Minds
That appears to be the worst move the Steelers have made since they drafted Jarmain Stephens and Huey Richardson. It's impossible to not surmise that the Steelers are very angry at Ben Roethlisberger's off-field problems and so they have taken it out on Holmes -- who's also had his fair share of issues.
Maybe we'll find out some underlying reason for what appears to be a knee-jerk trade once the Steelers officially announce the deal, but it's more likely that we'll be left even more confused.
Pittsburgh just traded away one of its five best players for a fifth-round pick. In case you're wondering what the Steelers can get with the 151st pick in the draft, here's the last 10 players taken at 151: Rhett Bomar, Frank Okam, Jeff Rowe, Tim Dobbins, Drew Hodgdon, Mark Wilson, Ben Sobieski, Jake Schifino, Ross Hochstein and Joey Jamison. Two of those 10 players (Dobbins and Hochstein) had significant NFL careers and Hochstein is the only one to start more than 10 games as a pro.
This just seems awful on multiple levels. It's baffling why the Steelers decided that Holmes was too much of a trouble-maker to keep around when the team's franchise quarterback is facing more significant problems. It's just as shocking that the Steelers weren't able to get more than a fifth-round pick for him. Chargers' cornerback Antonio Cromartie was coming off a very disappointing season and had legal troubles from failure to pay child support -- the Jets traded away a 2011 third-round pick to get him, a pick that could bump up to a second-round pick based on playing time. For an even more accurate comparison, wide receiver Braylon Edwards has had similar production to Holmes during his career and he's also faced legal troubles. The Jets gave up third- and fifth-round picks, wide receiver Chansi Stuckey and linebacker Jason Trusnik for Edwards during the 2009 season.
Before Sunday's reported trade, the Steelers arguably had the best wide receiver corps in the league. Now they are asking Mike Wallace to step up and be the No. 1 receiver in his second year. Hines Ward is still a very, very solid possession receiver as the No. 2, but if something happens to Wallace, Pittsburgh will have no deep threat unless Limas Sweed makes an amazing turnaround.
Holmes' is not the Troy Polamalu-type of model citizen -- few NFL players are. He was facing a civil claim from an incident in a Florida bar last month, although his attorney has a signed affidavit from another man saying Holmes was falsely accused. Holmes also has been suspended for a game in the past for an arrest for marijuana, although the charges eventually were dismissed, and he's gone on a Twitter tirade in recent weeks where he told a follower to kill himself and also said it was time to "wake and bake." Pro Football Talk has also reported that Holmes could be facing a four-game suspension to start the 2010 NFL season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
That's not the kind of rap sheet you want to read about your No. 1 receiver, but at the same time, there are a number of other players who are still Steelers today with similar problems -- led off by Roethlisberger.
When this deal is finalized, you'll likely read a lot about how the Steelers are sending a message that they are serious about players' conduct on and off the field. What it actually means is that the Steelers selectively pick and choose whom they punish. When James Harrison and Cedrick Wilson both were accused of domestic violence back in 2008, Wilson was released while nothing happened to Harrison. It made sense -- Harrison was a key part of the team while Wilson was a spare part.
When kicker Jeff Reed got into trouble for drinking, the Steelers stuck with him -- it's hard to find a kicker who has mastered Heinz Field. With Roethlisberger facing a second straight offseason of legal troubles, the Steelers have expressed their concerns, but thus far, done nothing else -- he's a franchise quarterback and Steelers' fans know how hard it is to find one of those, after all. Now they've traded away the team's best receiver, even in an offseason where every other move was made to win a Super Bowl this year.
When the Steelers re-signed Ryan Clark, Charlie Batch, Nick Eason, Larry Foote and Antwaan Randle-El, they decided that adding veterans for another push toward the Super Bowl was more important than leaving roster spots for young players to develop. That's a completely defensible decision. But now, one move has erased an offseason of good moves. Losing Holmes has done more to hurt the Steelers' 2010 chances than any of the previous moves had done to help them.
The Steelers are one of the best-run organizations in sports, which means that even when they make an inexplicable move, you have to give them some benefit of doubt. But in this case, it's hard to see what they were thinking.