|Happy Holmes-coming: Steelers receiver loves trips to Ohio|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 25 October 2007 00:35|
After all, this is a ``Hang On Sloopy'' week for Holmes - and so far, during his 1 1/2-season NFL career, he's needed nothing more to assure himself of a trip to the end zone.
This will be Holmes' fourth regular-season game in Ohio since the former Ohio State star became the Steelers' 2006 first-round draft pick, and he has scored a touchdown in every game there so far.
When the Bengals last saw Holmes, he was running down the sideline on a 67-yard touchdown pass play that gave Pittsburgh a 23-17 overtime victory on the final day of the 2006 regular season. Holmes' score kept the Bengals out of the postseason, a year after Pittsburgh eliminated Cincinnati during the wild-card playoffs.
Holmes knows the play is recalled none too fondly by Bengals fans, many of whom rooted for him when he was one of the top receivers in Ohio State history.
``I know it's tough for them but, at the same time, they give me a lot of fan support,'' Holmes said Wednesday. ``Regardless of what team you play for, they're going to support you.''
Maybe all Holmes needs to get him going on a Sunday afternoon is hearing the McCoys' 1965 hit record ``Hang On Sloopy,'' which in 1985 was declared by the state General Assembly as Ohio's official state rock song. The Ohio State band traditionally plays it before the fourth quarter of every game, and the song is played at all Browns and Bengals games.
Of course, that may change if the Bengals learn how much Holmes enjoys hearing it.
In his three career games in Ohio, including the Steelers' 34-7 win in Cleveland on Sept. 9, Holmes has 11 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns. His 124-yard game in Cincinnati last Dec. 31 was the first 100 yard-plus game of his NFL career.
Holmes didn't become a starter until late last season but, with four-time Pro Bowl receiver Hines Ward hurt part of this season, Holmes has been Ben Roethlisberger's primary target.
Holmes has 20 catches for 339 yards, four touchdowns and a 16.9 yards per catch average in five games. Ward has caught 16 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown in four games.
``Santonio's a guy that can stretch the field,'' Roethlisberger said. ``But, more than that, he's grown and matured so much. He's been a guy that has really learned from Hines and can be an underneath guy who can catch the ball in the zone (on short-yardage patterns), do more with the ball after the catch.''
Holmes, drafted primarily to provide the Steelers with a needed deep-receiving threat, doesn't have a catch of longer than 43 yards this season. To Roethlisberger, that illustrates how Holmes is developing into more than a one-dimensional threat.
``Before he was a guy where you'd say, 'Just take off, just go deep,''' Roethlisberger said. ``And he can still do that obviously, but he's getting really good at understanding coverages and defenses and what he's supposed to do on every play.''
Roethlisberger, like Holmes, has an Ohio background. Roethlisberger starred at Findlay High before playing at Miami (Ohio) and has also never lost an NFL game in his home state. He is 8-0 as a starter there, counting one playoff win.
Coincidence? Maybe not.
``Ben has a lot of support back in Ohio and so do I, so just to go back and let the fans see us in person, it's a good thing,'' Holmes said.
Much as hearing ``Hang On Sloopy'' is all Holmes needs to make his day.
``They're going to play that song regardless, that's Ohio's state song so everyone plays it no matter what stadium they play in and no matter who's playing,'' Holmes said. ``So I'm going to get cronked (pumped up) just like I did against the Cleveland Browns and against Cincinnati last year.''