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OBITUARIES | Ernie Holmes, 1948 - 2008

Member of football's 'Steel Curtain' won 2 Super Bowls

January 19, 2008|From the Associated Press

Ernie Holmes, who won two Super Bowls as an anchor of Pittsburgh's famed "Steel Curtain" defense in the 1970s, has died in a car crash in southeast Texas. He was 59.

Holmes was driving alone Thursday night when his car left the road and rolled several times near Lumberton, about 80 miles from Houston, a Texas Department of Public Safety dispatcher said Friday.

He was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene, the department said.

The two-time All-Pro played for the Steelers from 1972 to 1977 and spent part of the 1978 season with New England before retiring. He played on a defensive line with Steel Curtain teammates "Mean" Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White.

"Ernie was one of the toughest players to ever wear a Steelers uniform," Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney said in a statement. "He was a key member of our famous Steel Curtain defense, and many people who played against him considered Ernie almost impossible to block. At his best, he was an intimidating player who even the toughest of opponents did not want to play against."

Holmes was part of a front four in the 1975 Super Bowl that helped limit Minnesota to 17 yards rushing and 119 total yards. The Steelers won their first Super Bowl, 16-6. They were back a year later, beating Dallas, 21-17, in the title game.

Holmes had a reputation for being "stone crazy," he told Time magazine in 1975. That came mostly from a case early in his career when he pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon following a bizarre episode in which he fired a pistol at trucks and a police helicopter. He was sentenced to five years' probation.

Holmes was nicknamed "Fats" for most of his life. He also was nicknamed "Arrowhead Holmes" in 1974 when he shaved his head, leaving only an arrow-shaped pattern of hair on his skull.

Holmes, who was 6 feet 3 and about 260 pounds during his career, also told Time he was attracted to the violence of football.

"I don't mind knocking somebody out," Holmes said. "If I hear a moan and a groan coming from a player I've hit, the adrenaline flows within me. I get more energy and play harder."

Earnest Lee Holmes was born July 11, 1948, in Jamestown, Texas, and played football at Texas Southern University.

After football, Holmes had minor acting roles. He appeared in an episode of the 1980s TV show "The A-Team" and dabbled in professional wrestling.

Holmes tried to live a calmer life in later years, settling on a ranch in Wiergate, Texas, where he had a church and was an ordained minister. He told the Steelers he was a more "spiritual being."

Information about survivors was incomplete Friday.

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