Holmes, Steelers remember Denver game last season
October 17th, 2007 by Neal Coolong
It’s a good thing he’s slated to play Sunday, because Santonio Holmes has some payback to dish out against Denver.
The Broncos basically eliminated the Steelers from the post-season picture last year, returning the favor from the 2006 AFC Championship game hurting the Steelers put on them.
WR Santonio Holmes hit the bottom of his young career against the Broncos, losing a fumble on the ensuing kick after the Broncos went up 7-0. He fumbled another kick in the second quarter, but a lucky bounce to Bryant McFadden kept the possession arrow facing Pittsburgh.
With those two fumbles, Holmes had five on the year - losing two of them. Up until that game, the 2006 first-round pick had 16 catches and zero touchdowns. Just like the Steelers up to that point, it seemed nothing could go right. Also, just like Holmes, the Steelers could not hang on to the ball that game, fumbling six times, losing three, including a devastating Hines Ward fumble on the four-inch line of the Broncos end zone. The score would have pulled the Steelers to 31-28 if they got the two-point conversion. Instead, they dropped to 2-6 on the season.
NT Casey Hampton said after the game he would have bet his house the Steelers would not have started 2-6. Whether Holmes took that game personally, I don’t know, but he was a different player over the second half of the season. Through the final eight games, he had 27 catches for 501 yards - 17.9 yards a catch - and two touchdowns.
Pittsburgh won six of their final eight, ending at 8-8. That win at Denver would have put them at 9-7, and given them the tiebreaker over Kansas City (conference record comes before head-to-head match-ups), and the final playoff spot in the AFC.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda, of course. But after Holmes missed the Steelers’ Week 5 matchup with Seattle because of a hamstring injury, QB Ben Roethlisberger gets him, and Ward, back against their AFC rival.
While Broncos CB Champ Bailey is as formidable pass defender as the league has seen since Mel Blount - he was the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year - the Steelers have been far more effective this season in the air. Roethlisberger is sixth in the NFL in passing, racking up a 99.2 rating through five games. Holmes has already eclipsed his career high by posting three touchdowns. With both Holmes and Ward out against Seattle, third WR Cedrick Wilson filled in beautifully, catching five passes for 69 yards. TE Heath Miller leads the team with 17 receptions.
With Bailey being a First-Ballot Hall of Famer in the prime of his career, odds are good the game-plan will be to keep the ball away from him. The Steelers corps of receivers is a good one, but it isn’t likely Bailey will be assigned to just one of them - they all can hurt their opponent down the field. Opposite corner Dre Bly has been hampered by injuries, and while he has been a decent playmaker through his career, Ben has a better chance going at Bly when the opportunity shows itself.
Will the receiver in that match-up be Holmes? We’ll see Sunday night, but there’s no doubt he, and the rest of the Steelers, remember the last time they were in Denver. The Broncos are reeling after a slow start, and Pittsburgh might have a chance to provide the same season-knock-out blow they received last year in Denver.