When The Underdog Wins….
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Remember Anthony Smith? He’s Back

When safety Anthony Smith returned to practice last Wednesday following a week-long layoff with a sore groin, he announced his return with authority, leveling wide receiver Hines Ward in a 7-on-7 non-contact drill.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” screamed one coach as Ward lay on the ground, recovering from the hit.

 

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau quickly called Smith over for a word with him, something that seems like a regular occurrence with the third-year safety.

But head coach Mike Tomlin took offense at the portrayal by some in the media of Smith as a “thug” Tuesday.

“He’s very sensitive and our guys are very sensitive, too,” Tomlin said. “I think at one point his actions were referred to as thuggery, or he was referred to as a thug. We take offense to that. These are young, professional people that are very good at what they do and are very sensitive to how they’re portrayed in a public light. I was offended by that reference in reference to him. He’s not a thug; he’s a young professional football player who’s trying to be at his best. We happen to play the games very physical.”

 

 

Smith, a former third-round draft pick, said he’s just misunderstood.

“I’ve never mugged anybody or robbed anybody. I’ve got a clean record,” said Smith. “I don’t know how I would be classified as a thug.”

It’s not the first time Smith, who lost a training camp battle with Ryan Clark last season for the starting free safety position, has drawn the spotlight.

Last year, Ward took Smith to task for a number of hits on receiver Willie Reid in practice.

And when Smith was pressed into action when Clark was lost for the season in October with a spleen injury, he made national headlines when he guaranteed a Steelers’ victory over the unbeaten New England Patriots.

The Patriots used Smith’s words as bulletin-board material and went on to dismantle the Steelers, 34-13.

With Clark back this season, Smith has been pushed to the bench again and could be in danger of not making the Steelers’ final roster.

Tomlin said Thursday night’s game against Buffalo in Toronto will be a big one for Smith. The team drafted Ryan Mundy of West Virginia in the sixth round and also likes undrafted rookie Roy Lewis, who plays both cornerback and safety.

 

“I’d like to think he’s moving in the right direction, but Thursday night will be telling, truth be known,” said Tomlin, who will play Smith at both strong and free safety. “He’s missed quite a bit of time with his injury. It’s tough to evaluate him from a consistency standpoint because he hasn’t had a lot of opportunities in training camp. We intend to rep him out quite a bit on Thursday night and hopefully he shows growth. I know from a day-to-day standpoint, how he approaches his business has been improved, but ultimately, it’s based on what you do between the white lines.”

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