One of the persistent storylines of this week's AFC Championship game between the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers will undoubtedly be wide receiver Santonio Holmes' second return to Heinz Field. Prognosticators will say that Holmes' four seasons in Pittsburgh - after a bargain-bin trade sent him to New York nine months ago - give the Jets a special edge when the Steelers defense is on the field. Holmes has already added legs to this lazy narrative:
"I know what [Pittsburgh's] defense is all about. I know how I can help my team exploit their defense, and we're going to use every bit of it this week."
Frankly, I think this is nonsense. Holmes probably understands Dick LeBeau's zone blitz scheme (at least the coverages) better than any player on the Jets, sure, but does he really have some special, secret insight into the Steel Curtain that Rex Ryan doesn't already possess? I seriously doubt it. After all, Ryan spent nearly a decade on the Baltimore Ravens' coaching staff, competing against the Steelers at least twice a year.
Perhaps Holmes is aware of some individual tendencies of the Steelers defensive backs, especially cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden, who Holmes had to line up against in practice for all those years. But I actually think it's more likely that Mike Tomlin and company have more ideas for how to stop Holmes. After all, they're coaches, they guided his development as a young receiver. Holmes is just a player, albeit a damn good one.
In any case, if Holmes does have some Steelers kryptonite in his back pocket, it sure didn't show the last time these teams met, a 22-17 Jets victory in Week 15. Fellow wideout Braylon Edwards (8 receptions, 100 yards) inflicted more damage than Holmes (6, 40), and quarterback Mark Sanchez recorded only 5.86 yards per pass.
Holmes is a good player, and he's been known to make a clutch reception (video) from time to time. He could definitely have a game-changing performance on Sunday, but it won't be because he used to be a Steeler. Don't get me wrong: it makes me sad that Pittsburgh had to surrender his services for just a fifth-round pick (even if it was one that Kevin Colbert deftly used to (re)acquire cornerback Bryant McFadden and rookie receiver Antonio Brown). But Holmes' time with the Steelers doesn't mean anything special for the X's-and-O's purposes of the AFC Championship.
It's just narrative fodder for the press.