"It's all how you perform," Smith said. "I don't think my body is wearing down. As far as me going out and performing, that will be the criteria, just like a guy in this second year trying to make the team. If you don't go out and do the job, you're too old."
Smith has started at left end for 10 mostly injury-free years. However, he tore his right rotator cuff in the second game of last season after a biceps tear prematurely ended his 2007 season. Before his latest injury, he was as dominant as ever and showing no signs of slowing down.
"When they looked at it, it was a clean tear," Smith said. "There was no degeneration, like I had broken down the fibers and wore it out. They said it was just a fluke thing. That was a good sign, and that's why I would have a good result with the surgery. It's not like it's degenerated over time, it was just one of those weird injuries. It was just luck of the draw. I should have brought a lottery ticket or something."
Without him, the Super Bowl XLIII champs slipped to 9-7 and did not reach the playoffs.
"It's not fun watching football," Smith said. "I enjoy participating in it, but I don't enjoy watching football right now."
The day is approaching when he no longer will be able to play, but he hopes that is not the case in 2010.
"Age is relative. It depends on the individual. I think some people age faster than others."
The Steelers drafted defensive end Ziggy Hood in the first round last year but he likely will play behind Smith for a second straight season, barring injury. Brett Keisel will again be their starting right defensive end.
"I thought he did well," Smith said of Hood. "He has a way to go but I have not seen a rookie perform to the level he has. As far as picking things up, learning, being a sponge."
--The Steelers will open the preseason at home against Detroit, play their second game at the New York Giants, play their third on Aug. 29 at Denver and finish with a home game against Carolina, likely on Sept. 2. Other than the game in Denver, specific dates and times will be set later.
--The Steelers signed veteran backup quarterback Charlie Batch two a two-year contract after he became a free agent. Batch, 35, has been with the Steelers the past eight seasons, mostly as their No. 2 quarterback. However,
--Art Rooney Jr. and former Steelers greats such as Rocky Bleier, Mel Blount and L.C. Greenwood will celebrate their 1979 Super Bowl team the night of the NFL draft, April 22.
--Director of football operations Kevin Colbert is in the final year of his contract. Many reports have had him joining former Steelers coach Bill Cowher if he coaches for another team in the future: "My reaction is I'm perfectly happy working with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the future will take care of itself," Colbert said.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"He's kind of a fun guy. He enjoys having fun, joking around and going about his business. He's just a jovial kind of person when he's around here." -- DE Aaron Smith on QB Ben Roethlisberger
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