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lamberts-lost-tooth
12-23-2006, 05:41 AM
By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, December 23, 2006


It's been another quiet season for Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith.
It's also been one like no other.

"I think this is probably one of the better years I've had, if not the best," Smith said. "I personally feel like I'm playing better than I ever have before."

Smith came to the Steelers in 1999 and became a starter at defensive end the following season. He hasn't said much since and rarely if ever has done anything to draw attention to himself.

But all the same, Smith has become an integral part of the Steelers' defense, and a classic leader-by-example for fellow defensive end Brett Keisel, a first-year starter this season.

"I just try to keep up with him," Keisel said. "He is the best example for all of us. To be able to play as hard as he plays every week, he never misses a game. He's always doing his job."

Smith has done that well enough to produce 53 tackles, four-and-a-half sacks and 18 quarterback hurries while playing a position in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme that's about much more than numbers.

Defensive ends in a 3-4 are supposed to do the dirty work and free up the linebackers to get the glory.

Smith has rolled up his sleeves and performed at a level that's allowed him to glean a personal satisfaction from his efforts that transcends the Steelers' 7-7 record.

A series of defeats that piled up in the season's first half and the team's current predicament as far as making the playoffs is concerned -- the Steelers' chances of doing so rank somewhere between a long shot and forget about it -- haven't damped Smith's enthusiasm in the least.

"It's easy for me to stay motivated," he said. "I love this game. It's easy to get up in the morning.

"Obviously, it's tough sometimes late in the season, but it's easy to get up and go to work. The older I get, the more fun this game gets to me. I think I've learned to appreciate it more."

Smith, a fourth-round pick out of Northern Colorado in 1999, has been around long enough to rank fourth among Steelers in seniority, behind guard Alan Faneca, wide receiver Hines Ward and cornerback Deshea Townsend (who all arrived in 1998).

Smith made it to the Pro Bowl following the 2004 season but was overlooked in this year's voting.

At this stage of his career he considers himself a better judge of how he's been performing than a Pro Bowl selection process Smith considers "a funny thing.

"The older you get you learn to start competing with yourself," Smith said.

Smith has also learned enough about Keisel this season to suggest that big things are in store for him down the road.

"Keisel is going to be a great player in this league," Smith said. "He's a good player now, but the more he gets experience, the more he sees stuff, he's going to be a great player."

Smith should know.


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Twin towers
How defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, starting this season for the first time in place of Kimo von Oelhoffen, stack up in the Steelers' defense:
Player........ Tackles /Team rank/ Sacks/ Team rank/ QB hurries /Team rank
Aaron Smith......... 53........... 8 ...........4.5 .........4 ...............18 ................. 2
Brett Keisel ..........52............9........... 5.5......... 3............... 20.................. 1
Kimo (2005)......... 40......... 11........... 3.5......... 3............... 11.................. 3



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Elimination scenarios

Here are the scenarios that would eliminate the Steelers from the NFL playoff race this weekend:

1. Steelers loss

2. Jacksonville win AND Cincinnati win AND Tennessee loss

3. Jacksonville win AND Denver win AND Tennessee loss AND Kansas City loss

4. Jacksonville win AND Cincinnati win AND New York Jets win AND Tennessee clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over Steelers

5. Jacksonville win AND Denver win AND New York Jets win AND Kansas City loss AND Tennessee clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over Steelers

OneForTheToe
12-23-2006, 11:26 AM
Smith is absoulutely the perfect lineman for the Steelers 3-4 scheme. He just keeps working until the play is over. Most of his sacks or pressures come because he just outworked the guy opposite him. Probably most importantly he doesn't seem to mind the LBs getting most of the glory.

BigDuke6
12-23-2006, 01:28 PM
Aaron Smith is a true team player and epitomozes the Steelers' team first philosophy. We should have Anthony Smith hang out with him more often.

Preacher
12-23-2006, 04:31 PM
Aaron Smith is a true team player and epitomozes the Steelers' team first philosophy. We should have Anthony Smith hang out with him more often.

It is absolutely GREAT to have Dline that good. Be patient with Anthony Smith. He is on a team with great influences. They won't let him get too far out of line without jumping on him.

clevestinks
12-23-2006, 04:38 PM
Aaron Smith? Who is that? LOL You never here him, but he always shows up and gets the job done! We are lucky to have such players.

SteelCzar76
12-23-2006, 09:21 PM
Aaron labors year in and year out, yet hardly ever gets his just due from fans and or press. Yet,...he continues to be productive on a consistent basis. He's a consumate professional. (Please believe this does not go "over the heads" of his peers and coaches.



"Hail Caesar,......HAIL THE BLACK AND GOLD"