OWINGS MILLS – Expect the Steelers to test Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith on Thursday night.
After a stellar Week 1 in Denver, including a pick-six for a touchdown against Peyton Manning, Smith has been victimized the past two weeks. On Sunday, A. J. Green of the Bengals beat Smith for the game-winning touchdown. Against the Raiders in Week 2, Amari Cooper burned Smith badly for a 68-yard touchdown.
Those plays have raised concerns about Smith’s confidence, and his health. Smith had season-ending foot surgery last season, and it’s understandable to wonder if he can change direction and accelerate as quickly as he wants to.
Smith faced the media following Monday’s night practice, after apologizing for being too upset to speak following Sunday’s game. Smith refused to use his foot, or anything else, as a crutch.
“People come back from injuries, they play,” Smith said. “Until this season is over, I’ll never talk about my foot.”
Asked about his confidence, Smith said, “I don’t think my confidence is shaken, because obviously, I still go down and I try to play the game I want to play. Obviously, you don’t want to give up big plays, but my confidence comes in my preparation, and I prepare. I study harder than most people, I would say. So my confidence isn’t going to shake just because a play has been made on me.”
But on Thursday, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown will be waiting. Brown led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards last season, and only Julio Jones of the Falcons has more receiving yards (440) than Brown (436) through Week 3.
Brown will remain dangerous with Michael Vick at quarterback for the Steelers in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger. Vick has the arm strength to throw deep, and Brown does much of his damage on short passes that he turns into big plays with his running ability.
“Antonio Brown, he’s a very, very tough competitor,” Smith said. “They give him the ball all the time. You watch film and they wait until he gets open to throw him the ball. We’re going to have our hands full chasing that jackrabbit around.”
For Smith, Thursday night is a chance for redemption in prime time. Not making excuses is fine. But the Ravens need Smith to make more plays.