The football world got some depressing news on Wednesday night, with wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. announcing that he’s “89 percent sure” that Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals will likely be his last.
If he ends up retiring, Smith Sr. will always be remembered as one of the most prolific wide receivers of all-time. His ridiculous career stat line backs it up, with the wideout racking up over 1,000+ receptions, and 10,000+ receiving yards during his 16-year NFL career. Despite being on teams that constantly failed to make deep runs in the playoffs, Smith Sr. provided franchises with his incredible heart and consistent play to establish himself as one of the best players at his position year in, and year out.
Smith Sr. has had his fair share of moments with the Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens, creating catchphrases and finishing highlight-reel plays that should be replayed and studied for years to come. To mark his contributions in the NFL, here are the 5 most memorable moments of his illustrious professional career:
5. Scores 45-yard TD, then fights with most of the Saints’ secondary
Despite boasting a slim 5-foot-9, 195-pound frame, Smith Sr.’s athleticism allowed him to make plays through contact, in the air, and on the ground.
A true example of his athletic abilities would come in Week 5 of the 2011 season, where Smith Sr. would show off his aerial talents against the New Orleans Saints. With his team down 10-0 on a crucial 3rd and 11, Smith Sr. would make a terrific play by out muscling Jabari Greer in the air to make an awesome catch, before strolling into the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown. Saints safety, Roman Harper would take it the wrong way and knock down Smith Sr. after the TD, but he wouldn’t be phased; celebrating in front of Harper and stirring up a brawl with another Saints defender.
It wasn’t his greatest sequence, but this situation truly described how Smith Sr. was as a player. He didn’t care about how he celebrated, and he certainly wasn’t afraid of butting heads once the opportunity came his way, since he always had the motor and skill to back it up like a true pro.
4. Tells Aqib Talib to “Ice up, son”
During his career, Smith Sr. gained a reputation of getting under his opponents’ skin by trash-talking and playing a ruthless style of football. On Monday Night Football in 2014 against the New England Patriots, Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib would get a good taste of the pesky receiver’s antics, with Smith Sr. getting into his head right from the start.
Their feud would escalate at its highest with 4:50 remaining in the 1st quarter of the contest, with Talib grabbing Smith Sr.’s leg after a catch from the wideout – resulting in a personal foul for Talib, that would force Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck to take him out of the game for a string of possessions.
Smith Sr. would only finish the game with 4 catches for 62 yards, but his team would end up winning the game, 24-20. He clearly won the battle with Talib, by frustrating the Patriots defender and bothering him throughout the contest. Talib also wouldn’t finish the game, hurting his ankle as a result of all the physical confrontations between himself and Smith Sr.
After the game, Smith Sr. would coin his now-famous catchphrase, making fun of Talib’s injury by telling him that he should “ice up.”
3. Breaks 6 tackles before sprinting down the field for a 75-yard TD
Smith Sr.’s toughness and grit made him one of the fiercest competitors in the NFL, and that would certainly be the case during Week 2 of the 2007 campaign against the Houston Texans.
After receiving a quick pass from Jake Delhomme, Smith Sr. would stiff arm a Texans defender – only to meet several more defenders as he continued to run towards the end zone. Unfortunately for the Texans, the pass catcher wouldn’t let up; breaking 5 more tackles before breaking off and freeing himself for a 75-yard TD that would be his 3rd of the game. Smith Sr. would finish with a ridiculous stat line, catching 8 passes for 153 yards and 3 TDs, helping add to another incredible season.
Even though his miraculous TD wouldn’t amount to anything, with the Texans taking a 34-21 victory, it would show Smith Sr.’s willingness to compete and play hard; a component of his game that truly defined him as a player.
2. Game-winning TD in double OT against the St. Louis Rams to send the Panthers to the 2004 NFC Championship game
Smith Sr. made a bevy of spectacular plays throughout his amazing career, but his biggest, to this date, came in the 2004 postseason when his Carolina Panthers went up against the St. Louis Rams in the NFC divisional round.
With both teams failing to score throughout their 1st overtime period, their game would head into double OT, with the Panthers holding the ball to start the frame. On 3rd and 14, the Panthers were in need of a 1st down back on their own 29-yard line. In need of a big-play, Smith Sr. would step up for his team; taking a bullet pass from Delhomme and dodging a couple of Rams defenders before breaking off for a game-winning 69-yard TD. The touchdown would send the Panthers to their 2nd NFC title game in franchise history, and even they lost in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, Smith Sr.’s play against the Rams remains one of their most memorable sequences in franchise history.
Despite his rough ending with the Panthers, he’ll always have a place in their history as one of their greatest players – finishing 1st all-time in total receptions (836), receiving yards (12,197), touchdowns (67), and 100-yard games (43).
1. Gets revenge against the Panthers with 100+ yards and 2 TDs
Smith Sr.’s 2014 campaign wouldn’t have the greatest start, with the Panthers deciding that they could find a “younger, and cheaper” alternative at the wide receiver position.
The wideout would later refuse to take a pay cut, and asked for his release as a result – ending his 13-year tenure with the franchise that originally drafted him. It wouldn’t take long for Smith Sr. to find a new team, with the Baltimore Ravens signing him to a 3-year, $12 million deal. It just so happened that the Ravens would be taking on the Panthers that season, something that the 14-year man out of Utah noticed immediately. In Week 4 of the 2014 season, Smith Sr. would finally get his chance at his former team and he wouldn’t disappoint – finishing with 7 catches, to go along with 139 yards and 2 TDs to help lead the Ravens to a dominant 38-10 victory.
By the conclusion of the contest, the Panthers’ management must’ve learned something. Smith Sr. wasn’t finished, and he was still able to perform at a high level in the NFL as an elite wide receiver. Even though he didn’t end up winning a Super Bowl, he’ll always be remembered for putting his heart and soul in the sport he loved in order to win football games for his team – something that can never be taken for granted.
All stats for this article are from NFL.com
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