How Much Does Steve Smith Have Left?

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Minutes after signing his contract, Steve Smith, Sr. joked that the Ravens were getting an "old guy."

Smith will turn 35 on May 12. He's played 13 NFL seasons and there are only two other wide receivers from his 2001 draft class still in the league.

So how much does Smith have left?

While at the NFL owners meetings this week, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh and Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera spoke about what they've seen from Smith, both on tape and in person. And they both came to the same conclusion.

"Steve still has it," Rivera said. "He doesn't have the top-end speed like he used to, but he's still got good speed. He's got the speed, good hands and quickness."

Harbaugh agreed after watching a lot of tape.

"He's not the same jet that he was when he was younger," Harbaugh said before making an astute analogy.


"I was at Disney with my daughter and some of those roller coasters are pretty fast. They just explode off the rails now. I think he's not quite that."

Harbaugh said that Smith used to make a catch and then run a wide arc around a defender. He had the speed to get around him the long way. That's one thing you don't see anymore, Harbaugh said. Smith will usually get tackled when trying to take that same angle.

Harbaugh said that Smith and the Ravens talked about that, and how he's got to adapt his game and improve to make a tighter transition and get up field more quickly after making the catch.

Smith will have to change his game slightly as he ages, but he knows that, and that's part of the excitement of the challenge ahead. He can still do plenty in Harbaugh's eyes.

"He's still got plenty left," he said. "He makes tough catches in traffic. He makes tough catches outside. He catches nine-routes. He catches comebacks. He catches stop 9s. All of the tough catches outside, he makes."

One thing Smith didn't do a lot last year was catch deep balls. He had just four receptions of 20 or more yards. There were 135 players in the league with more. In 2012, he had 17 such catches, ranking ninth in the league.

So did Smith lose his ability to make the big play? Or did he just not get as many opportunities?

"I don't have any observations on their offense," Harbaugh said. "But I saw him catch the deep balls. When he had a chance, when he was running a nine-route or an eight-route and he was even with the defender, he was leaving still. He was able to accelerate and go make the catch. If he does it, that means he still can do it and that's all we really need to see."

The Ravens signed Smith for more than his speed or physical abilities at this stage of his career. They signed him to be an impact player on the field and off it, and to bring his fiery attitude.

"He's still a tremendous competitor, and I think he's going to bring some grit to our offense," Harbaugh said. "He's going to help us."

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