Sep 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (89) runs onto the field during introductions prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Like a clock, Steve Smith just keeps on ticking. And when his alarm goes off on Sundays, the man just turns in performance after spectacular performance. The Bengals know this all to well as Smith’s 80-yard touchdown catch nearly delivered them an opening week loss; Smith’s seven catches for 118 yards and one TD is the best game a receiver has had against the Bengals this year.
To start the year, the Ravens faced each divisional opponent and then faced the Carolina Panthers in Week Four; none of these should be particularly easy games. Yet, Smith has dominated to start the season. He’s on pace to have a career year as he’s accumulated 25 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns through four games; his previous career highs came in 2005 when he amassed 103 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns. These numbers have made Smith arguably the league’s best receiver to start the year and maybe it’s most consistent. Smith’s impact on the Ravens has been paramount to their success thus far.
His impact couldn’t have come at a better time either. This year had all the makings of a down year for the Ravens. They began the off-season with five arrests to players–Jimmy Smith, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Jah Reid, Deonte Thompson, and Ray Rice–which was reminiscent of the Bengals circa 2006. The Ray Rice situation alone is enough to engulf any team and ruin a year. Even team owner, Steve Bisciotti, has caused a serious distraction as his handling of Ray Rice may have been no better than Commissioner Roger Goodell’s. Finally, and to really top it off, this offense has suffered several setbacks. An extremely unfortunate hip dislocation–the second of his career– has sidelined Dennis Pitta for the year while Torrey Smith has struggled within the team’s new offense. The running attack has taken a hit as Bernard Pierce has missed the last two games while left tackle Eugene Monroe has been shelved for a few weeks after having a “knee procedure.” Yet the Ravens are 3-1, winners of their last three, in large part because of Smith.
Steve Smith should have the league’s attention once more. More than that, AFC North rivals should be well aware of what this man can do. With regards to the Bengasl, if not for some A.J. Green magic, they would have suffered their only loss of the year due to Smith’s long touchdown; one that saw Smith not only torch Adam Jones, but also flatten him. The next time they meet, I’ll expect Adam Jones to use his fiery nature to combat Smith more effectively. Sweeping the Ravens wouldn’t be easy, but holding Smith in check would go a long way towards retaining the AFC North’s crown.