Santonio Holmes expects standing O

Updated: December 16, 2010, 7:17 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets' Santonio Holmes is planning an eventful homecoming this weekend to Pittsburgh. All he needs is a little daylight to make it happen.

He promised to score on a punt return against his former team, the Steelers.

"Those guys know if they give me an opportunity, trust me, I'm going to take advantage of it," said Holmes, who was traded to the Jets last April. "If they give me a crease, I'm going to take it to the house.

"Is that what you want to hear? Feed that to those guys [in Pittsburgh]. Those guys already know. If they give me an opportunity, they know that's going to happen."

Holmes isn't short on confidence. This is his personal Super Bowl. On Sunday, he gets to face the team that unloaded him for, basically, the price of a Gatorade bucket.

"It's been on my mind for quite some time, and I just never let it play a factor until now," he said. "Now is the time to get a chance to play against these guys. I spent four years there. It's definitely time to show these guys, 'Why let me go?'"

Maybe Holmes' bravado will help the reeling Jets, losers of two straight, in their huge game at Heinz Field. The Jets are mired in an offensive slump and controversy -- Tripgate.

"I want him to play with emotion," coach Rex Ryan said. "I want him to play with that passion and that fire."

Holmes figured to be a Steeler for a long time, but he misbehaved his way out of town. He was involved in a handful of off-the-field incidents, including marijuana possession in 2008. He violated the league's substance-abuse policy for a second time last spring, receiving a four-game suspension. The Steelers were so fed up they traded him for a fifth-round draft pick, hardly something you'd expect for a 1,200-yard receiver and former Super Bowl MVP.

"Shocked," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday, recalling his initial reaction to the trade. "You never want to lose a guy, especially a friend and a play who is that good. So it was shocking news."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, explaining the rationale behind the trade, said they thought it was best for all parties. He noted that Holmes had only one year left on his contract, that he was going to miss four games, and "we had an opportunity to get value for him."

Holmes, playing for a new contract, has been on his best behavior with the Jets.

Since returning from the suspension, he has been their best clutch player, compiling impressive nine-game totals -- 41 receptions, 620 yards, a 15.1 average and four touchdowns.

His worst moment came last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, when he dropped an easy touchdown in the end zone. That could have made the difference in the Jets' 10-6 loss. Now he's looking for double redemption, going back to the city he called home for four years.

"I'm pretty sure they're going to give me a standing O when I get on the field," Holmes said. "Or they may boo me because I'm on another team, but I'm pretty sure if you look into the stands, you'll see a lot of No. 10 jerseys with 'Holmes' on the back."

Holmes was a terrific player for the Steelers, delivering one of the signature moments in franchise history -- his game-winning, toe-tapping sideline catch in Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals.

"That play will be remembered for a long, long time, and it's awesome to be part of," said Roethlisberger, who threw the six-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds. "He's really a special kind of football player, and I'm glad he's doing well up in New York. Obviously, he's missed."

Holmes didn't want to predict his emotions for the game, saying he won't know until Sunday. But he is looking forward to returning punts. He was a regular returner in his first three seasons in Pittsburgh, scoring twice (once in a playoff game).

The Jets kept Holmes under wraps until two weeks ago, unveiling him in the Monday night massacre in New England. He removed himself from last Sunday's punt-returning job, claiming he was frustrated by Brandon Fields' booming punts for the Dolphins.

"I told Westy, 'Send someone else out there,'" he said, referring to special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff. "That's being 100 percent honest."

With their offense mired in a two-game touchdown drought, the Jets may need a big return from Holmes to change the game. He's up for it.

"It's that time of the year," he said. "That's all I'll say about my punt-return duties. It's that time of the year."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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