Steve Smith Sr. Will End Career In Cincinnati On Sunday
Sunday’s matchup between the Ravens and Bengals will be the final game for Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.
There were 47 seconds left in the game.
The Bengals led the visiting Baltimore Ravens, 27-24, after a go-ahead touchdown run by Andy Dalton. Pinned at his own 20-yard line, Joe Flacco eluded a four-man rush and heaved a desperation pass down the field. Coming back to the ball was Steve Smith Sr., who made the catch, then raced into the end zone for the game-winning 80-yard score.
The play was called back for pass interference on Smith, who was flagged for pushing off Bengals’ safety George Illoka. Two plays later, Cincinnati stopped the Ravens on downs to secure a momentous victory after being outscored, 107-54, over a four-week winless streak prior to the matchup.
After giving the Bengals a major scare that day, Smith will return to Paul Brown Stadium for the first time since that thrilling day along the Ohio River. After this game, however, the 16-year veteran will hang up his cleats for good.
Exactly one year since he announced he would return for another season, Smith, referencing the jersey number he has worn since being drafted 74th overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2001 NFL Draft, said he is “89 percent sure” that New Year’s Day in the Queen City will be his final game, wrapping up a career that will certainly earn him a Hall of Fame jacket.
Smith was put on the map during the 2003 postseason. After his first 1,000-yard season, he capped off the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs with a 69-yard touchdown reception to defeat the St. Louis Rams in overtime. In the Super Bowl a few weeks later, he caught a 39-yard touchdown from Jake Delhomme in an eventual loss to the New England Patriots.
A then 24-year-old Smith would never get closer to winning a Lombardi Trophy.
He broke his leg in the 2004 season-opener and missed the rest of the year. Then, in 2005, his Panthers lost in the NFC Championship Game to Seattle. Carolina would go one-and-done against in 2008 and 2013, spelling the end of Smith’s days in Charlotte.
One day after the Panthers cut him, Baltimore scooped up the veteran wide out on a three-year, $15 million contract. If you ask around the 410 area code, Ravens’ faithful would say that Smith has earned every penny.
Thorn in the Bengals’ rose
In three seasons, he’s tallied 192 receptions for 2,500 yards and 14 touchdowns. And, speaking for most of Who Dey Nation, Cincinnati won’t miss him.
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Over 16 years, Smith has had a knack of torching the Bengals’ secondary. Starting with his first game against Cincinnati in December 2002 when he caught five passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in a 52-31 Panthers’ win during the Bengals’ worst season in franchise history (2-14).
Smith’s stint with Baltimore started with a 118-yard performance against the Bengals. Including a go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown where he manhandled Adam Jones at the goal line.
On Nov. 20th this season in Dallas, Smith became the 14th player in league history to record 1,000 catches. He ranks 7th all-time in receiving yards (14,967) and 12th in receptions (1,028). He’s already in good company with his numbers. Smith and Hall of Famer Tim Brown are the only two players in NFL history with 13,000-plus receiving yards and over 4,000 return yards.
“I’m trying to get to Sunday without crying like a little kid,” Smith told ESPN. No matter how much he wants to freeze time, Sunday will come.
It will bring the start of a new year and the end to a Canton-worthy career.