Steelers safety Anthony Smith has been in the media many time in the past year for various things, including guaranteeing a win against the undefeated Patriots (dumb) and laying out his own receivers in practice. Anthony Smith is not a “thug” as a certain Pittsburgh sports writer claimed. Let’s be straight, Smith is not Adam “Pacman” Jones, Michael Vick or Chris Henry. Define those three, among countless others, as thugs all you want, but not Smith. He has never been arrested for drugs, questioned about strip club shootings or put in federal prison for dog fighting like the three listed.
Smith is simply a young player trying to make a name for himself on the team. Yes, even Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stated Smith showed poor “practice etiquette” by laying out veteran receiver Hines Ward and Willie Reid, with the Reid incident taking place earlier in camp; however, football is a physical game, so how can you tell a person he’s only allowed to be physical during games and not practices? It doesn’t make sense. For now though, he’ll have to play behind Ryan Clark and know that if and when he gets a chance, it may be his last. Defensive backs coach Ray Horton had this to say about Smith in a recent Pittsburgh Tribune Review article “He’s not going to play until he does it our way.” If Smith does it the Steelers way he has the opportunity to be a star, a feared presence in the secondary. Smith could, unlike Ryan Clark, make opposing teams think twice about throwing across the middle if they value the health of their receivers. When asked about Smith, cornerback Deshea Townsend told the Trib “…he's going to be a star back there. He's probably the most explosive player we have in the secondary." That is quite a thing to say, for two reasons; one being Smith is a guy on the same team as Troy Polamalu and second because he’s only entering into his third season. If anyone would know how explosive Smith is, Townsend would have a good idea, given he has practiced with Smith everyday for the past two seasons.
The biggest knock on Smith is that he needs to learn how to play the mental game. Guaranteeing a victory against the undefeated Patriots last season was in hind sight a bone head move; however, at the time Smith was trying to get his team psyched up in the week leading up to the game. His play in the game made him look like an idiot. He was out of position several times and that led to no less than one Patriots score. No one is perfect in any game, but Smith’s miscues and lack of positioning on certain plays were put under a microscope because of what he said earlier in the week. If no comments were made, those mistakes would’ve most likely been chalked up to inexperience and nothing more. I believe strongly that Smith’s practice hits on Ward and Reid are over exaggerated. The hit on Ward came during his second practice after returning fro a groin injury, and he was most likely trying to say to the coaches “Hey, remember me?”. For awhile it looked as though Pittsburgh native and Michigan/ WVU product Ryan Mundy would take Smith’s roster spot. In time, and hopefully soon, he will learn that lighting up his own teammates in practice is bad.
For Smith to understand the mental part of the game, why can’t veteran guys like Clark, Polamalu, Townsend and Tyrone Carter mentor him and help him? Smith isn’t a threat to their jobs right now, and helping him get his head straight would help the team in the season. To have Smith be able to come in when the game is on the line would be a great thing, just one of his big hits could swing momentum in favor of the Steelers, but in order for him to do that, he needs to learn to play the mental game and cut down on his mistakes that’ll cost 6 points. Here’s to hoping Anthony Smith can figure it out, and soon.