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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

A look at the great Aaron Smith

MESA, Ariz. — The Steelers made the move everyone saw coming, even as we all were trying to look away.

Aaron Smith, the linchpin defensive end of the 3-4 formation that carried the franchise to another wave of NFL glory, was placed on injured reserve by the team this afternoon. That officially ends his 2011 season and, at age 35, probably his career, too. Defensive lineman Corbin Bryant was signed off the practice squad to take his place. The moves were announced Saturday afternoon, just before the team’s charter left Pittsburgh for Phoenix.

Smith played in only nine games in 2009-10 because of shoulder and triceps injuries, then was out of the lineup again this season after injuring his foot earlier this month. He was replaced last season by youngster Ziggy Hood, and that’s how it will be now, as well.

It makes for a sad, sputtering end to a brilliant career. When Smith is remembered, it will be as someone appreciated far more within the game than outside it. He wasn’t compiling big numbers or highlight-reel plays. He wasn’t rushing the quarterback. He wasn’t intercepting passes. What he did was completely shut down running games and eat up opposing linemen to free up the Steelers’ linebackers to do the rest.

By all accounts, nobody was better at that than Smith in his prime.

What will resonate most for me – at least for the short term – are two words Smith spoke to me after a rough outing a month ago in Indianapolis. Well after the game’s final snap, as much as a half-hour later, he looked up at me while putting on his shoes and said, “I’m tired.”

From the Steelers’ perspective, it’s the right move at the right time at the right position, one at which they are blessed with depth that includes Hood and first-round draft pick Cam Heyward.

Give Smith credit, too, for coming back, for trying. A class act on and off the field has been lost in Pittsburgh.


  1. Bill says:

    All hail Aaron Smith. He truly represented what Steelers football is all about. A class act on and off the field. Hopefully Ziggy Hood and Cam Heywood have been paying attention to him so that they can carry on the tradition.

    As Dejan said above, a class act on and off the field.

  2. Deacon says:

    Mr. Smith you where the backbone to this D nothing but love for you thanks.

  3. […] an interesting tidbit on Smith from the Trib’s Dejan […]

  4. Bob says:


  5. pgherinfl says:

    I’m sorry to see his great career end!! Thank you Aaron Smith for your play all these years. Good luck my man!!!

  6. mellon (Califonia - born in the burgh) says:

    I guess we all hoped he would be back this season, but seems injury prone. Age? What a fantastric player with such dedication! Hope nothing but the best for him! Certainly will be missed!

  7. Tony says:

    A great player and a great family man! You will be missed, Aaron Smith!

  8. Drew71 says:

    Taking nothing away from Aaron Smith, he has NOT been lost in Pittsburgh.

    He is no longer playing. He is not lost. He was a wonderful player and is a terrific man, neither of which can be taken away because he no longer plays.

    He is not lost.

  9. Praveen says:

    Any chance Aaron Smith will be a presence on the sideline like Charlie Batch was when he was injured?

  10. We will miss him hope hen stays on then team coaching

  11. Josh says:

    Thank you for all those great years not a flashy guy but got the job done that’s what matters! You were the cornerstone of the Steelers defence you will be missed, congrats to Mr.Smith on a brillant career.

  12. jsheaffer says:

    The Steeler Nation appreciates you greatly, Aaron Smith. You’ve been a great credit to the organization and, more importantly, will continue to be a great citizen and family man.

  13. shawns says:

    It was always comforting to know he was in the line up never gave it a second thought then they had the documentary on him on the nfl network about his son thats when he ceased to be defensive end Aaron smith and became the man Aaron smith thanks for letting us into your life gonna miss you on the field but the man is still the man.

  14. john harris says:

    Aaron is truly a class act and will be missed by all

  15. Ray Y says:

    The perfect fit. AAron Smith, the city of Pittsburgh and the Steelers. Thank you Mr. Smith for providing us fans with the modern version of the Steel Curtain. You will be missed, but not forgotten. Steeler fans out here in California and all over the globe say thank you.

  16. Dan S says:

    What a disappointing ending to a truly great career. Aaron Smith was so reliable and so talented for some many years in Pittsburgh. He will be sorely missed and remembered by this Steelers fans. Blessings in all that you do and take care of that family, Mr Smith.

  17. jimbo says:

    A class act. Farewell, Aaron Smith on a a great career. Time to move on with the promising youngsters, Hood and Heyward.

  18. John Coleman says:

    Mr. Smith ,
    Good Luck ! To you and your family! You are a true champion of your time. We will miss you here ar Steeler Nation! You will never be missed!! Thank you for being a part of all the fans !! Hope to see you soon time soon!

  19. Paul says:

    I think this line from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech at the Sorbonne, Paris on April 23, 1910 sums up Aaron Smith’s career as a Pittsburgh Steeler:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    God bless you and your family Mr. Smith. And thanks for many great football memories!

  20. John Coleman says:

    Mr. Smith ,
    Good Luck ! To you and your family! You are a true champion of your time. We will miss you here at Steeler Nation! You will never be missed in our hearts!! Thank you for being a part of the NFL and all the fans !! Hope to see you soon time soon!

  21. Mike says:

    Hey Aaron! You set the standard for defensive ends. Nobody ran through you but they may have chose to run away from you to avoid being crushed! May you continute to bless all those you touch just as you have blessed many in your football career!

  22. Dennis L says:

    I’m actually choked up about this. What a great player, great Steeler and great man. Best of luck to you #91

  23. Mrs. T. Smith says:

    When I decided to buy a Steeler’s jersey, it was a given that I would buy No. 91. Not just because it was a SMITH jersey, but because Aaron Smith is a first class man and a fantastic, often-overlooked player. A sincere Christian and top-notch family man. Prayers to him and his family as they face this transition in their lives, but I know they are focused on their son and his battle. God has a way of putting people where they need to be, and I think Aaron needs to be with his family right now. Thank you, Aaron Smith, for what you gave Pittsburgh. (go to YouTube and watch Aaron’s testimony there. You’ll appreciate him so much more.)

  24. diehard says:

    Here’s a link to Aaron’s testimony mentioned above. Really amazing. Thanks for being the man you are Aaron.

  25. Smitty 50 says:

    A sad day for me. and all true Steeler fans. Aaron never received, and never sought the the publicity or acclaim that his peers got. He did one thing…WIN. Congrats on a great career. You are a champion both on and off the field. You will be missed, but not forgotten.

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