Friday, December 07, 2007

Replacement of Porter now complete

The Steelers replaced LB Joey Porter's playmaking skills months ago, with James 'Silverback' Harrison well on his way to a Pro Bowl season. In fact, Harrison earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in November, thanks in part to his "career game" against the Ravens. But until this week the Steelers hadn't found a replacement for Porter's "mouth," a role that the quiet-as-a-mouse Harrison could not embrace. But safety Anthony Smith appears to be more than willing to step into Porter's shoes and yap away. This week Smith delivered what I would describe as a qualified guarantee that the Steelers will beat the Patriots on Sunday.

I would imagine that Smith's teammates probably sighed when they got wind of the second-year DB's pronouncement. And Smith probably got called to the principal's office right away. Head coach Mike Tomlin reports telling Smith something along the lines of, 'Write your own checks, but don't write checks for the whole team.' Well said.

But in this case, does Smith's guarantee make much difference? I doubt it. New England is already plenty motivated to keep its unbeaten streak alive, and except for Steelers' fans, no one knows anything about Smith. Of course, Pittsburgh supporters hope that Smith has the opportunity to "introduce" himself to Randy Moss & Co. on Sunday with one of his punishing hits. After all, Smith arguably hits harder (pound-for-pound) than any Pittsburgh defender since Greg Lloyd. Anyway, the Steelers are 14-point underdogs, so no one is really expecting Pittsburgh to win. I doubt Smith is being calculated but he is using one of Porter's old tricks; by keeping the attention focused on himself it allows the rest of the team to prepare for the game in relative peace.

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