You Better Chill Holmes - By Matt Savrok
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|The Steelers have one of the proudest traditions in all of sports. Not only do they have a history of great achievements on the playing field, but they've always taken great care to win with class. Players are expected to be good citizens off the field, and those who fail to live up to that standard also fail to stay on the roster. RB Bam Morris, while his off-field problems occurred a decade ago, is one of the most prominent examples.
It's not just a matter of principle for the Rooneys, who would rather lose as gentlemen than win as scoundrels. Players with character problems do more than just taint a team's on-field accomplishments. In the long run, they can also destroy it. In other words, placing importance on character makes good football sense.
Football's landscape is littered with great talents who failed to live up to their potential. They range from hard-core punks like Lawrence Phillips to relatively innocuous head cases like Ricky Williams to immature brats like Ryan Leaf. But they all have one thing in common. They all squandered their natural ability because of their mental issues. And teams' concerns about such players were evident in the 2006 draft. USC running back LenDale White, who had a reputation as a head case and showed up at the combine overweight, fell into the second round. A marijuana arrest cost another first-round talent, LSU defensive lineman Claude Wroten, millions of dollars when he fell to the third round.
Now the Steelers have a potential problem on their hands. First-round pick WR Santonio Holmes has already had two run-ins with the law, and he hasn't even signed a contract yet. We don't know all the facts in either case, and he is innocent until proven guilty. But at the very least, there are now serious questions about his maturity and judgement.
The good news is that Holmes recognizes the gravity of his mistakes. In a statement released by the team to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Holmes said "I understand that being a Pittsburgh Steeler carries along with it the demands for responsible behavior off the field. I want to apologize for the negative attention that my arrest on Monday has brought upon the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, especially in light of my previous arrest in May,"
The bad news is that statements are easy to make. The hard part is being able to follow through.
Holmes' off-field problems leave the Steelers with few attractive options. They could waive him, but that would be a waste of a first-round pick after they traded up to get it. They could trade him, but the two incidents have undoubtedly lowered his value. The best news in all of this is that Holmes is still unsigned. The Steelers can't control his behavior off the field, but they can teach him an expensive lesson by writing conduct clauses into the contract and limiting his signing bonus.
This will, in a sense, be a departure from the Steelers' standards, and it will provide fodder for Bengals and Ravens fans to run their mouths (as if they have any room to talk). But it's the best solution for all concerned. Holmes will have a powerful incentive to clean up his act and avoid compromising situations. The Steelers will avoid making a major commitment in terms of time and money until Holmes proves he's worthy of such a commitment.
Hopefully that will be the case. Holmes saw his dreams come true in April when he not only made the NFL, but did so when his favorite team traded up to select him. It would be a crying shame if he threw it away.