Before the season Steve Smith wouldn’t have broken a top 10 wide receivers list. Maybe even a top 15. He was a forgotten man. Stuck with terrible quarterbacks for too long people, including yours truly, were overlooking him for younger models. Declaring Mike Wallace as the next great deep threat was more fun than umming and ahhing about Smith’s future in football. After all when was the last time he, or the Panthers, had been relevant? We’d all forgotten just what a motivated Steve Smith can do in the NFL.
|Steve Smith cut a forlorn figure in 2010|
And then Cam Newton showed up.
Smith had considered quitting football after his wife had a health scare. He had thought about asking for a trade so that he could make a run at the super bowl one more time. The 32 year old wide out had cut a frustrated figure throughout 2010, with what could loosely be described as “NFL Quarterbacks” Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen at the helm of the Panthers offense Smith got just 46 catches, 554 yards and 2 touchdowns, his lowest since his rookie season in 2001 (excluding his injured season of 2004).
But the 2011 draft’s first pick convinced the fiery wide receiver to stay put in Charlotte, and they haven’t looked back.
Newton’s explosive entrance in the NFL has been very fun to watch. He’s far surpassed what was expected of him, and despite a bit of a few wobbles, and just a 2-5 record, he is a shoe-in for Offensive Rookie of the Year. But the best thing Cam has done is to remind us all of just how good Steve Smith is.
Smith now leads the NFL in receiving yards, yards per catch (min. 20) and has caught 3 of Newton’s 8 touchdown passes. These are remarkable numbers when you consider there is very little threat from the other wide receivers on the Panthers team, and certainly no one who can justifiably drag coverage away from him.
He’s got a swagger about him that comes to the fore when he’s performing well. This play highlights everything that Steve Smith is about. He shows incredible athleticism to go up and get the ball and then is a lightning rod for the other teams frustrations. After receiving the cheap shot Smith doesn’t hit back, he stands there and spins the ball, it’s a statement. “I’m here, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
|Steve Smith showing great ball skills in 2002, skills he hasn't|
We shouldn’t really be surprised. This is a man who put up 218 yards in a single play-off game against the Chicago Bears in 2005 and has been suspended twice for punching out teammates. He’s a great player who can be a handful at times. He’s not going to play out for the media like a Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens, and because of the QB’s he’s been stuck with will never have the numbers of a TO or Randy Moss. But he’s every bit as dangerous as they were. And even more fun to watch.
And to think teams could have gotten him for a bargain price for the last year or so…
Welcome back Steve Smith, we’ve missed you.
- Toby Durant (@TDonSport)
- The Pulling Linemen