Before he caught a pass with the Steelers, Santonio Holmes already had caused a stir with his new team. But the buzz came from what Holmes, their No. 1 draft choice, did off the field, not on it, much to the Steelers' dismay.
Now, though, Holmes has a chance to make a different kind of noise, the kind for which the Steelers traded up seven spots to make him the 25th overall selection in the NFL draft.
Holmes gets a shot to help ease some of his off-field problems when he plays in the Steelers' first preseason game Saturday in Arizona, an opportunity to gain some attention for something other than the legal problems he has encountered since Memorial Day weekend.
"I'm very excited about it," Holmes said. "I'm looking forward to it."
And so are the Steelers.
The coaches finally get a chance to see what Holmes can add to an offense that, by the end of last season, was the most proficient and explosive in the National Football League. So far, they've liked what they've seen of their 5-foot-11, 190-pound receiver in training camp.
"I see a lot of natural things that are very exciting," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "You see explosion, good discipline in his routes. I think you can see that, regardless if they're making mistakes or not. We put him in some situations where he's had to make some decisions, and he's done a good job with that."
Holmes, the top receiver selected in the draft, needs to do something on the field to divert some of the attention he has received for arrests in Miami Beach, Fla., and Columbus, Ohio, in a 25-day span.
Especially because he has a jury-trial hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Franklin County Municipal Court in Columbus on charges of domestic violence and abuse against Lashae Boone, who is the mother of his third child. The case will be heard before Judge Michael Brandt.
It is not known if Holmes will be present for the hearing. Holmes has referred all questions about the case to Sam Shamansky, his Columbus-based attorney.
"I don't know the answer to that yet," Shamansky said. "It's still up in the air." He said he will know later in the week whether Holmes will attend.
Last week, Holmes had a disorderly conduct charge, stemming from a May 27 incident in the South Beach section of Miami Beach, dropped in exchange for a $250 donation to the Police Officers Assistance Trust Fund.
It only has added to the tough transition a rookie has to make to the NFL, Holmes said.
"Camp is hard, and that's what it's supposed to do -- toughen you mentally and also physically," Holmes said yesterday after lunch at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. "It's pretty much a learning process of being a rookie. You got to take in so much at one time, but, once the season starts, everything will bear down and become a lot easier.
"I'm doing very well. The coaches are satisfied with my performance. I think I feel comfortable with the way everything is going. But I still have a lot of learning to do."
Indeed, Holmes has flashed the speed and skills that tantalized the Steelers on draft day, caused them to trade up with the New York Giants to get a shot at the former Ohio State receiver.
Right now, in the base package, Holmes is running behind Cedrick Wilson, the starter at split end, and veteran Quincy Morgan. But the Steelers want to use Holmes in some of their three- and four-wide receiver packages to take advantage of his deep speed. When they do, Wilson and Hines Ward will rotate between the slot and flanker position and Holmes will be used as the split end, or X receiver -- the position designed for big plays.
Holmes, though, has been getting some good tutelage. Ward stays after practice almost every day and works with the rookie receiver, sometimes pretending to a defensive back and showing Holmes how to use his arms to protect the ball. After meetings, Ward will go over the playbook with Holmes.
"He's a good kid," Ward said. "He started off a little rocky with his off-the-field stuff, but he wants to have a clean slate. He's really a great kid who wants to get better.
"Once the preseason comes around and the games start, we're week to week, we don't stop playing. Now, he can just focus on football. Now, it's just concentration more on the team rather than his off-the-field actions."