The Post-Gazette reported that Holmes was stopped by police in Hill District because his SUV had similar characteristics to one they believed to be carrying a large amount of narcotics. The officer stopping Holmes smelled marijuana, and asked Holmes if he had been smoking marijuana. Holmes admitted that he had done so the day before, and confessed to having a small amount of the drug in his possession. Holmes was not arrested, and will be charged with a court summons.
This is not the first time a Steeler has found his way onto the police blotter during Tomlin’s time, as Najeh Davenport, James Harrison, and Cedric Wilson were all involved in domestic disputes during the past year. (Davenport was acquitted by a jury, Harrison saw the charges dropped against him, and Wilson was released from the team.)
But this incident comes on the heels of the Steelers biggest regular season match up, less than 72 hours before the reigning Super Bowl Champion New York Giants are sent to arrive at Heinz field.
Moving with a Firm Hand
The importance of this match up cannot be understated. The New York Giants are 5-1, and although their play has not been flawless, they’ve played well enough to demonstrate that they are capable of making a repeat run at the Super Bowl.
While the Steelers are also 5-1, they’ve only played two teams that figure to have a serious shot at playing multiple games in January. Holmes importance to the team cannot be overstated. He has caught 22 passes this year, and while he only has one touchdown, his 16.4 yards per catch average shows just how much of a deep threat he is.
Given the urgency of the Giant’s game up, Tomlin deserves praise for taking a resolute stand. Not only did Holmes not practice today, not only will he not play against the Giants, but he has been banned from showing his face at Heinz Field on Sunday.
After today’s practice Mike Tomlin minced no words:
His situation has created somewhat of a distraction. We want to minimize that as much as we can and remain focused on the task at hand which is to compete and play against the New York Giants on Sunday…. I notified him of that and told him I would see him on Monday morning…. This is how I choose to address it and deal with it at this time. My approach and mentality in regards to the situation might be different next week. Right now I don’t have the time or patience to delve into it….
Strong, But Strong Enough?
Tomlin wasted no time in declaring Holmes inactive for the game against the Giants, and in doing so he delivered a strong message his players, but the question is, was it strong enough?
There is no mistaking Tomlin’s tone, but he stopped short of suspending Santonio Holmes.* Benching a player and banishing him from team facilities on the eve of a big game makes a clear statement, and will get the attention of the other players in the locker room.
But a suspension would have added some real sting and sent an unequivocal signal to the rest of the team.
*Yesterday, both the press reports and the Steelers website were on record as saying that Holmes had not been suspended. However, today the Post-Gazette is reporting that "He [Mike Tomlin] declined to say if Mr. Holmes had been suspended by the team or docked a game's pay."
Click here for Steel Curtain Rising's speculation on how this latest incident could affect Santonio's future with the Steelers.