Against the Bears, it was a dropped touchdown pass that completed Holmes' dropped-passes hat trick.
Against the Bengals, it was a case of Holmes not being where he was supposed to be, a transgression that led to an interception that produced an instant six for Cincinnati.
Yeah, it was still the Steelers' defense that surrendered 10 fourth-quarter points at Soldier Field and 14 more at Paul Brown Stadium. But if the offense in general and Holmes in particular had been a little sharper the past couple of Sundays, and achieved a little more separation a little earlier in games, this team would be 3-0. And nobody would be moaning about the performance of the defense, especially considering that the defense is playing without Troy Polamalu.
Holmes wasn't the only member of the offense who helped keep the Bengals in the game until they found a way to steal it. Limas Sweed contributed another non-touchdown that ought to cost him his seat on the bus for the time being. And Rashard Mendenhall was benched despite his signs-of-life effort the previous week in sweet home Chicago.
Holmes wasn't called on the carpet as those two were, but when you're a Super Bowl MVP you apparently get a little slack in the accountability department. But attached to that designation is the expectation that you play like one.
The Steelers need Holmes to be that guy, especially with Polamalu on the sidelines. When Holmes was that guy last year, the Steelers' season took off like a rocket.
The second Baltimore game, the most pivotal game of the regular season, the playoff game against San Diego, the second rematch against the Ravens, and, of course, Super Bowl XLIII, were all shining examples of what the Steelers had been waiting for Holmes to become.
The Steelers don't need him to play like that every Sunday, but they need him to do it more than once every three weeks.
So far this season Holmes is 1-for-3 and so are the Steelers. It's not a coincidence.
Holmes, more often than not, has to be part of the solution. So far he's too often been part of the problem. A bigger one than a defense that has been responsible for 17 points against in consecutive road games, regardless of when the bulk of those points have been scored.
Better accuracy by Jeff Reed in Chicago and better tackling by James Farrior in Cincinnati, likewise, would have made it much easier to overcome and overlook Holmes' early-season struggles. But they wouldn't have made him any less culpable.