Thursday, February 26, 2009

Should the Steelers tender Anthony Smith?

We’ll soon find out how the Steelers feel about safety Anthony Smith, a restricted free-agent who may or may not be entering his fourth year with the team. It’s quite possible that the Steelers have given up on Smith and won’t tender him an offer, which would make him an unrestricted free-agent and almost certainly lead to his departure from Pittsburgh. After all, Smith didn’t dress for any of last season’s postseason games, an indication that he has fallen to the bottom of the depth chart.

On the other hand, the Steelers might offer Smith a “low” tender, which would pay him $1.01 million in 2009 if he remained with the team — in effect giving the young safety one more year to prove his reliability. In that case, if another team offered Smith a contract, the Steelers would get a third-round draft pick in return if they elected not to match the offer. Theoretically, the Steelers could offer a “medium,” “high” or “highest” tender (which would bring back better compensation in the draft should they lose him), but it’s almost inconceivable that the Steelers would risk committing more than $1 million to a backup safety, no matter how great his upside potential.

In my estimation, Smith has been the most disappointing Steelers’ player in memory. Sure, there have been bigger busts than Smith, but the frustrating thing about Anthony is that he has flashed the ability of a Pro Bowler. As a rookie, he made several big plays, despite seeing limited action. And the hits he delivered made him look like the hardest-hitting Steeler — pound-for-pound — since Greg Lloyd. But since his rookie year he has regressed badly, and it’s clear that the team doesn’t trust that he will play within Dick LeBeau’s defensive scheme. We’ll soon find out if Mike Tomlin is willing to give him one more chance.



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