Notebook: Steelers remember Holmes the Raven

<b> PITTSBURGH -</b> In only two full seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Priest Holmes has rushed for over 3,000 yards. He even went for 150 yards in his only meeting with the Steelers, but the Steelers knew him when he was a bit player with the Baltimore Ravens. <br><br>"When they released him, I was shocked," said defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen. "He put 200 up against us twice when I was with the Bengals and he put 200 up against the Steelers that previous year."

Actually, Holmes put up 119 yards on 27 carries against the Steelers in the Ravens' 16-0 opening-day win in their 2000 championship season. In previous games against the Steelers, Holmes gained 130 yards on 18 carries in the Ravens 31-24 win in 1999, and 76 yards on 23 carries in the Steelers' 16-6 win in 1998.

Those were Holmes' only three starts against the Steelers after joining the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 1997 out of the University of Texas.

"Casey Hampton was telling us a little bit about Priest when he was at Texas with Ricky Williams," said linebacker Jason Gildon. "Priest got hurt and Ricky got in and it went from there. The same situation happened to him in Baltimore with Jamal Lewis. I think anytime you take a great player, and he has to endure some of those things early in his career, I think it builds a hunger and a desire inside."

There may have been another reason the 5-foot-9, 213-pound Holmes was let go by the Ravens after the 2000 season.

"I think he put the ball on the ground a little more than they wanted him to," said von Oelhoffen. "That's what we're going to have to do, make him put that ball on the ground."

The lagging area of the Steelers' special teams during preseason was kickoff coverage. They allowed 28.2 yards per kickoff return, but improved it to 23.2 in last week's opener.

"It's going to be a week-to-week thing," said linebacker Clint Kriewaldt. "We definitely got better from what we were in the preseason. That's just having guys on a steadier basis. Now we've got our main guys out there.

"People think it's weird, but you actually have to get to know the guys inside of you, how they play. You want to feel comfortable with them and know how they play. Each week we're going to get better and better. We had a good start last week. We could've done better, but I think we're definitely going to get better every week."

This week, the Steelers face a much more dangerous threat than Chester Taylor of the Ravens. The Chiefs' Dante Hall averaged 24.0 yards last week. Last year he averaged 23.8 yards and returned one kickoff and two punts for touchdowns.

"You can see he's very explosive. He's quick and he's tough," Kriewaldt said.

Joey Porter (thigh) has already been ruled out of the game, but running back Jerome Bettis (groin) practiced Friday and is expected to play.

For the Chiefs, tight end Tony Gonzalez (ankle) is listed as questionable but Coach Dick Vermeil said he would play. Vermeil ruled cornerback William Bartee (ankle) out. Bartee will be replaced by Dexter McCleon. Safety Jerome Woods will cover slot receivers in the Chiefs' dime defense.

The loudest stadium in the NFL is generally acknowledged to be The Coliseum in Nashville, Tennessee. But Hines Ward still sides with Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.

"I don't know what it is. The fans really get into it and they know when to get loud, especially when we're trying to audible or we're in shotgun," Ward said. "Since I've been there, playing there, you can be standing right next to a guy and not hear what he's saying, so we really have to make sure we communicate with one another when we go spread or shotgun."

The Steelers are 4-3 at Arrowhead under Coach Bill Cowher.

"We've had success but communication's everything when you're in the crowd," Ward said. "When you're on the same page with one another, hand signals and whatnot, then the crowd shouldn't even become a factor. But in the games we won, we jumped out on them early. We kind of quieted the crowd down a little bit."

-- Quarterback Tommy Maddox on his relationship with coordinator Mike Mularkey: "Mike and I have a great relationship. One of the things he does that a lot of people I've been around don't do is that if you do see something, or you do have a suggestion, he will look at it and listen to you. He'll consider it. If it has some validity to it, we'll run it. He's a great offensive coordinator to play for because of that."

-- Von Oelhoffen on beating All-Pro Jonathan Ogden for a sack last week: "I was kicking his (rear) all day. Didn't you watch the film?"
  • Tight end Jay Riemersma in the locker room amid a cacophony of laughter and chatter: "It's not this way everywhere. I don't know if some of the guys even know what they have here. I think some of them do because they've been determined to stay, but there's something special here. You can just feel it and sense it."

By Jim Wexell

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