The Steelers placed defensive end Aaron Smith on injured reserve today, ending his 2011 season.
If that sounds like deja vu, it should. This is the third consecutive year that Smith has played less than half of the season. His season ended last year after only 6 games, and he was placed on injured reserve in 2009 after only 5 games.
While the team only announced that Smith was being placed on IR, they may as well have announced his retirement. Smith will be 36 years old next season, and it’s highly unlikely that the Steelers will re-sign a 36 year old player who has missed more than half of the season for 3 consecutive years.
Smith was probably the top 3-4 defensive end in the NFL for quite a few years. It’s unfortunate that the Steelers don’t ask their defensive ends to get sacks. Smith’s lack of sacks probably kept him out of several Pro Bowls. But despite his lack of national recognition, Steelers’ coaches and fans all recognized Smith’s contributions.
It’s always sad to see a Steelers veteran go. Especially one who has been as dependable as Smith has. But time waits for no man.
Backup defensive end Ziggy Hood is ready to man the position for the next decade or so. Hood was called upon to start last season when Smith was placed on IR, and he did a stellar job of holding down the position. More recently, Hood has done an excellent job since Smith got injured this year.
I’ll miss Aaron Smith. He was a great player, and a great person. I remember how Steelers fans rallied behind Smith when it was discovered that his son had leukemia. Despite his personal challenges, Smith always carried himself with class and dignity. He was the epitome of a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Goodbye, Aaron. Steeler Nation salutes you.