The Steelers drafted a stalwart on the defensive line who never got the recognition he deserved
In 1999, the Steelers drafted a DE out of Northern Colorado in the fourth round. My first thought about Aaron Smith, the aforementioned DE, was this: Northern Colorado? He can’t be too good. I was mistaken and I’m glad I was mistaken.
For 12 of Smith’s 13 seasons, he toiled in relative anonymity, having been voted to the Pro Bowl only once despite being an integral member of teams that won two Super Bowls in a span of four seasons. Smith was a very durable and consistent player, having started all 16 regular seasons games 6 times over his career.
In fact, Smith started 152 of the 160 games in which he played, recording 1 INT, 21 passes defended, 7 forced fumbles, 9 fumble recoveries, 44 sacks, 481 total tackles, of which 84 were tackles for a loss and 26 QB hits. Not too bad for a fourth-round pick out of Northern Colorado.
The only year Smith made the Pro Bowl was 2004, a year in which he recorded 8 sacks. He recorded 8 sacks in 2001 but did not make the Pro Bowl that year. It seems to me that sacks do not offer a complete picture of a DE, particularly a DE in a 3-4 scheme.
A DE in a 3-4 scheme is usually responsible for ‘setting the edge’. Smith did that to perfection. If you watched him play, he was rarely beaten to the outside, which allowed the linebackers to do their thing, so to speak. Similar to Larry Brown, where does Smith’s name come up when Steelers fans talk about the greatest DEs in Steelers history?
Let’s keep the ball rolling, as it were.