Joe Flacco and the Ravens have sung Torrey Smith's praises for the last few seasons.
The speedy receiver entered the NFL as a home-run threat and has developed an overall finesse to his game during his four years in the league. Smith's ceiling is sky-high, and Flacco explained to reporters Tuesday that he believes Smith could put up numbers in line with the game's best wide receivers.
"Torrey is a 1,000-yard receiver and he's a 100-catch guy," Flacco said.
Smith has already accomplished half of that statistical feat, as he topped 1,000 receiving yards last season for the first time in his career. But he hasn't come close to notching 100 catches.
Smith had a career high 65 catches last season, and he has averaged 54.6 catches a year during his career. To see a significant jump in those receptions, Flacco pointed to Smith adding the underneath routes to his game, rather than long catches that defined the early part of his career.
"It's not going to be running by guys and catching home runs over the top and all the things that he does really, really well, because he has that talent. It's going to be those little things," Flacco said. "It's going to be the 5-yard catches that he turns into 12-yard gains. It's going to be the 5-yard catches and he gets tackled. Those are the things that are going to take him from however many catches he had last year to being a 100-reception guy."
Getting to 100 catches and 1,000 receiving yards would put Smith in an elite class of wideouts, as only five players in the NFL topped those marks last season. Flacco has already noticed steps from the receiver that makes him confident he's on his way to reaching that level.
"I'm seeing all those things this year from him," Flacco said. "He's really developing that, and I feel great about it."
Smith was quiet in the season opener against Cincinnati. He finished the game with three catches for 50 yards on a day where the offense took a while to get into a rhythm. While Smith's numbers weren't necessarily impressive, the catches he did make were exactly the kind of short and intermediate routes that Flacco mentioned.
The hope is for Smith and the offense overall to get into a groove early Thursday night against the Steelers.
"The way the receivers started off as a group – we pretty much screwed up every which way you can," Steve Smith Sr. said. "We have to minimize that and just continue to keep improving and just play better. If we start faster and end the way we played [against Cincinnati], we'll have a great outcome."
The Ravens were shutout and held to just 97 total yards in the first half against the Bengals, but then they started to move the ball in the third quarter and finished the game with 420 total yards.
The second-half performance demonstrated that the Ravens have the potential to be an explosive offense, and now the expectation is to show that from the very first series against Pittsburgh.
"I think a lot of it has to do with being loose, playing confident," Flacco said. "By the time you get into the second half, you're broken in, you've been hit, you've caught a pass, everything has happened and you go out there and react. And we need to get to the point that we all feel as a unit confident enough and loose enough to go out there and do that from the very first snap."