Santonio, Don't Keep Me Waiting - By John Smathers
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Imagine my relief. I had waited almost four years to see that number on a Steelers' uniform again. And there it was, on Santonio Holmes' back.
Finally, it was time to bring 'ol No. 10 out of the closet.
I had hung it up after Kordell Stewart's meltdown in 2002. I was on the Kordell bandwagon back in the day, but now I am embarrassed to wear that jersey. One of the Steelers would wear the number again, I figured, even if it turned out to be No. 3 quarterback or a rookie free agent punter, and I would have my wife sew his name over Stewart's.
Eureka! A new jersey! Well, practically.
The 2003 season went by. Then 2004 and 2005, and I was beginning to worry. Maybe nobody wanted that cursed number. The Steelers have no retired numbers, which is an honor many teams reserve for players of Hall of Fame stature. But maybe there was an unofficial, unspoken jinxed list over on the South Side and No. 10 was right at the top.
I began to think I'd have to go old school. I needed a throwback name. I'd have to look back to go forward.
Sixteen Steelers wore the number before Stewart, but the last was rookie punter John Bruno in 1987. Remember him? Local guy, Penn State? Nevermind.
Going back a little further, there was Scott Campbell, backup quarterback in the mid 80s. Nothing special there, but his No. 10 predecessor was certainly worthy. Roy Gerela might have been a kicker, but he's a kicker with three Super Bowl rings. How can you beat that? He's got a short name, and some people think I have a lot of gorilla-like qualities. It all fit.
Still, wearing a kicker's jersey just isn't cool. Jeff Reed is trying to change that, but it's still true.
So I went even further back. Kent Nix? Ron Smith? Rudy Bukich? Dan Nolan? Hey, quarterback Earl Morrall. Earl had a nice career after playing for the Steelers in the late 50s, but his mark on Steelers' history was made when the Steelers traded him for future Hall of Famer Bobby Layne.
No, I needed someone really famous. I needed a Big Name No. 10. I needed … the Whizzer. Byron 'Whizzer' White.
Who? White was a speedy running back for the then-Pittsburgh Pirates in 1938. He led the NFL in rushing in 1940 and 1941 for the Detroit Lions and he might have been one of the greats, but World War II and a stint in the Navy came along. Oh, and he became an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1962.
I could have had 'Whizzer' sewn on the back of the jersey. It would have looked better than Stewart. But I don't think anyone would have got it.
But on April 29, the Steelers drafted wide receiver Santonio Holmes. The first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers wore the No. 10 in his first workouts with the team. I was thrilled.
Then he got arrested. And then he got arrested again.
Holmes has been arrested twice in the last month, most recently for domestic violence by assault and assault. Unless he's just stupid, it shouldn't happen again before training camp, but the damage is done. Santonio may be in violation of NFL policy as well as the laws of Ohio and Florida. He hasn't signed with the team yet and now it's not even certain he'll be in uniform on Sept. 7 against Miami.
Did the Steelers make a mistake? When you've sold yourself on the concept that the Steelers only deal with players of character, it's easy to raise the red flag at the first sign of trouble. Yeah, Holmes has three children out of wedlock and yes, he's had some run-ins. Domestic violence is serious stuff. But we don't have all the facts yet. The NFL and the law will sort it out, hopefully in Holmes' and the Steelers' favor.
Holmes took the right step with his apology statement issued earlier this week, though I'm sure the Steelers insisted. And the Steelers will be wise to also insist on tough clauses in his contract. So until we know more, let's give the kid a break.
Don't keep me waiting, Santonio. I don't want the Whizzer on my back.