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Steelers draftee Holmes to miss early workouts

PITTSBURGH (May 2, 2006) -- Santonio Holmes was convinced that playing at Ohio State would accelerate his entry into the NFL, not delay it.

Turns out it did a little of both.

Holmes' three productive seasons as a wide receiver at one of college football's signature schools allowed him to skip his senior season and become the Steelers' first-round draft pick.

However, Ohio State's academic schedule will require Holmes to miss three valuable weeks of NFL indoctrination, forcing him to play catch-up when training camp starts in late July.

Because of an NFL-NCAA agreement, a college player cannot take part in NFL spring workouts until his college has had its graduation. Because many schools hold graduation in early May, most NFL draft picks are not affected.

But Holmes can't begin practicing until after the university's mid-June graduation. By then, the Steelers will have finished the 14 days of coaching sessions that follow their May 13-15 minicamp, which Holmes is permitted to attend.

"I'll probably just train back in Columbus with a bunch of my teammates before they leave," Holmes said. "I'll get ready from there."

Whether the delay will hurt Holmes' chances of becoming a starter this season remains uncertain. Two years ago, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the spring practices gave him a jump start in learning the Steelers' system and his new teammates.

Holmes has a chance to play immediately, too, as he will compete with Cedrick Wilson for the split end's job vacated when Antwaan Randle El signed with the Redskins as free agent. Either Holmes or third-round pick Willie Reid of Florida State will replace Randle El as a punt returner.

Holmes visited the Steelers' offices May 1, meeting with owner Dan Rooney, chairman Art Rooney II, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and coach Bill Cowher. But it wasn't his first trip to the Steelers' complex.

Holmes was recruited heavily by Pitt before signing with Ohio State, and he visited the practice complex the Panthers share with the Steelers. Despite Pitt's reputation for turning out star wide receivers under former coach Walt Harris -- Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant among them -- Holmes chose Ohio State because of its talent and tradition.

Or exactly the same assets the Steelers have, he said.

"We started getting some of the better athletes at wide receiver to come to Ohio State, and coach (Jim) Tressel saw that and decided to open up the offense a lot more and give us the opportunity to make more plays," Holmes said. "Hopefully, the same thing can happen here in Pittsburgh."

Holmes shares that wish with Roethlisberger, who called the wide receiver immediately after the Steelers drafted him.

"He told me he is very excited that I was picked by the Steelers and he is looking forward to working with me," Holmes said.

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