Ravens Player Profile: WR Steve Smith Sr.Posted on July 18, 2014 by Tim Horsey
Weapons. The more you have, the more dangerous you become. Effective weapons are ones that can quickly and swiftly do damage to an opponent. They can be quiet killers, or they can be loud and ruthless. Before the 2013-14 season, the Ravens offense sold off some of their big guns. During the season, they ended up shooting blanks.
This season they went out and bought themselves one of the loudest machine guns on the market. And this gun has a very special message etched into the barrel. Its time to “Ice Up, Hon.”
Steve Smith may have a bit of gunpowder residue built up in his barrel. He has been around the game, and has been used on the battlefield a lot. But he’s still one of the most effective receivers in the NFL when used correctly.
The Los Angeles native is an old soul in this young man’s game, and he is also a bit of a relic, being the last of the “diva-style” wide receiver than dominated the NFL 5 to 10 years ago. Unlike a Terrell Owens or an early-years Randy Moss, however, Smith rarely detracts from his teammates with his comments. He just usually wants the ball in his hands because he knows that’s the best chance his team has at winning. And you know what? He’s right. His best season came in 2005, when Smith’s 103 receptions, 1,563 yards, and 12 touchdowns helped carry a Panthers team to the NFC championship, where they eventually lost to the Steelers. Two seasons earlier, Smith caught 88 balls (his second highest total, after 2005) and the Panthers were an Adam Vinatieri field goal away from over time in the Super Bowl.
I am a huge Steve Smith fan, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not a realist (actually, I’m usually very pessimistic about the Ravens and their players). Those two seasons came in the prime of the player’s career, when he was 24 (2003) and 26 (2005). In fact, Smith has never caught more than 80 passes since 2007, when he was 28 years old (he had 78 in 2008 and 79 in 2011). And at 35, he’s not expected to have some sort of resurgence.
But let’s look into a few factors that may sway in Smith’s favor with his new team:
The chip on his shoulder couldn’t be any bigger. Smith has made a living at being pissed off at the world. At 5’9” 185 lbs, the former Utah Ute (no big school pedigree) has always felt that he has had something to prove, and has consistently used that motivation to propel his success. He’s done a pretty good job so far: Smith has made 5 Pro Bowls and is a two-time First Team All-Pro. This season, he has a whole new reason to feel like he’s been treated unfairly: The Panthers, who arguably (maybe not so arguably) have the worst receiving core in the league, released their former face of the franchise this offseason, allowing him to flock to Baltimore. Smith may have told his former team to "bring their goggles," but if he stays true to form, they won’t be the only team who will have “blood and guts” all over the field at the end of games.
One elite (!?!?!?!?!?) quarterback, please. First off, I’m kidding, so let’s not do the whole elite thing here. The point is that Smith has not been given the best list of quarterbacks in his career, and he has still been able to put up All-Pro caliber numbers in a lot of his years in the NFL (I’m looking at you, Matt Moore). Cam Newton is a fantastic quarterback, and you saw a bit of resurgence out of Smith when the Heisman-trophy winner arrived in Charlotte. Smith had the worst year of his professional career in 2010 (outside of 2004, where he only featured in one game), playing in 14 games and catching 46 passes and two touchdowns. In the three years that Cam Newton has been under center for the Panthers, Smith has caught 79, 73, and 64 passes, respectively, and has a total of 15 touchdowns. By the way, Smith’s 2013 production (64 receptions, 745 yards, and 4 touchdowns) would have put him second in all three categories on the Ravens dismal offense last season. Pairing him up with ol’ smoking Joe in Baltimore has to be a welcome sign to the former Panther, who has the potential to thrive as Flacco’s safety valve over the middle and outside the numbers.
He doesn’t have to be THE guy. This one is pretty simple. Steve Smith’s receiving partners last year for the Panthers were Greg Olsen, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn Jr. This year, he will get to play with Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones, Owen Daniels, and Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Assuming everyone plays to 75% of their potential (and that’s aiming low with everyone but Rice, Jones and Daniels), you would take the latter group every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Having more talent around Smith, especially the two deep threats in Smith and Jones, will allow much more space to be opened up to a receiver who thrives in it.
Worst Case Scenario: Smith, along with the rest of the offense, really struggle to adjust to life under Gary Kubiak. The 35 year-old also suffers some nagging injuries and starts throwing out little quips in the press because he feels he is not a big enough part of the offense. Ultimately, Smith becomes a headache that just isn’t worth the minimal production.
Best Case Scenario: Smith thrives in his new role, and really develops an early rapport with his new quarterback after strong off and preseasons. He becomes the perfect compliment in the offense, freeing up space in the middle for the likes of Pitta and Brown, while also being enough of a threat to make defenses think twice about doubling Torrey deep. He becomes most of his old self again, and ends up finishing first in receptions of the team (by a close margin) and second in yards, behind number 82.
Stats Prediction: 68 receptions, 825 yards, 6 touchdowns, 7 stupid penalties drawn on the defense because the defensive back is so pissed off at his antics, 3 buckets of blood and guts, and a whole lotta ice, hon.