Steelers' Smith vows to curb aggression
By John Harris
Saturday, February 2, 2008
PHOENIX -- Steelers safety Anthony Smith made another guarantee this week.
It's not what you think.
In the tradition of Smith's infamous victory guarantee against the New England Patriots last December and former Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress' predicting a New York Giants win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, Smith vowed to curb his on-field aggressiveness next season.
Within reason, of course.
story continues below
"I can't be so aggressive," said Smith, who is in Arizona for the Super Bowl. "By that I mean knowing when to be aggressive.
"I won't change," Smith, a third-round draft pick in 2006 who may be the Steelers' most physical defender, promised Thursday. "If I stopped being aggressive, I wouldn't be the same player. It's just knowing when to be aggressive.''
In the Steelers' 34-13 loss at New England Dec. 9, Smith was victimized on a pair of Tom Brady touchdown bombs. Brady threw over the top to beat Smith, the last line of defense who aggressively came up both times to stop the run.
Smith admitted that his fierce pride to always make the big hit may have gotten the better of him.
"New England never runs to Randy Moss' side," Smith said. "On the first touchdown (a 63-yarder from Brady to Moss) they (faked a run) to his side. I came up for the run and we were in a Cover 2. I have to stay back."
New England later burned the Steelers on a flea-flicker. Brady tossed a lateral to Moss, who threw it back to Brady. Brady lofted a 56-yard touchdown strike to Jabar Gaffney, the ball landing just beyond Smith's reach.
The object of local and national ridicule for his performance against New England, Smith said he wouldn't change anything regarding his failed guarantee.
"I stand by what I said. But I didn't use the word guarantee. I said if we played the way we're capable of, we would win. I still feel the same way," said Smith, who, despite losing his starting job to veteran Tyrone Carter in the playoff loss against Jacksonville, insists the criticism he received didn't affect his play, or his confidence.
Burress, like Smith, was asked to predict the final score of tomorrow's Giants-Patriots clash. And, like Smith, Burress refused to give reporters a politically correct no-comment.
Burress not only predicted a Giants' victory, but he also offered the final score: 23-17.
Everyone -- from Giants coach Tom Coughlin to Brady -- has weighed in on Burress' guarantee. None of the responses has been favorable toward Burress, who will be hailed as a heroic visionary if the Giants win but a misguided fool if they lose to what many consider the best team in NFL history.
Just like Smith.
"I know what Plaxico is going through," said Smith, whose prediction has been linked with Burress all week. "If you're a football player, you have to believe you're better than the man across from you."
And if you're Anthony Smith, you understand that you better back up your tough words with more positive results. John Harris is a sports writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-481-5432.