Notebook: Smith the one Pro Bowl snub

PITTSBURGH – It's not like he's small and easy to miss, or that he makes his football living off the TV screen as, say, a safety might ...

... so the Pittsburgh Steelers are wondering how Aaron Smith was left off the Pro Bowl team.

"What he does for the running game and getting to the quarterback, he's a Pro Bowl player," said Deshea Townsend.

"He's as consistent a player as there is in this league," said Brett Keisel. "That's all I'm trying to do, is keep up with him."

Townsend and Keisel are this year's co-winners of The Chief Award because of their honesty and intelligence. Even the quiet and humble Smith believes he was snubbed.

"I think this is the best I've played in my career," Smith said. "But that's just my opinion."

Smith did make the Pro Bowl after the 2004 season. He led the team in sacks with eight that season and was second in QB pressures with 22. He had the same number of pressures last season, when he led the team, and is on pace this season with 18. He trails only Keisel, who has 20, and Smith is fourth with 4.5 sacks.

The stats might not back up Smith's assertion that this is his best season, but those who watch the 6-5, 298-pounder control the point of attack would certainly agree.

Is Smith bothered that he wasn't voted to the Pro Bowl?

"Yes and no," he said. "I'm used to it so it's not like I had my heart set on it, but you do like to get recognized by your peers. Barrett Brooks calls me Mr. Invisible, but, hey, maybe I'm not that good. Some people think I am. The other thing is my personality. I'm not the guy to get in front of the TV and say things and do things on the field."

Smith's most notorious moment was against the New Orleans Saints, when he was penalized for a low hit on Drew Brees. All Smith had done was pull down Brees's sock.

"The funniest thing about all that," Smith said, "I get to his foot and I grabbed his foot; I didn't pull because I knew they'd penalize me. So I grabbed his foot, he throws the ball, completes it, and he looks down and says, ‘Aaron you can let go of my foot now,' just nonchalant. And then they threw the flag. I think he was as surprised as I was."


On Friday the Ravens downgraded 10-time Pro Bowl tackle Jonathan Ogden to doubtful with a turf toe injury.

Tight ends Todd Heap (thigh) and Daniel Wilcox (knee/back) are listed as questionable. They didn't practice this week but are expected to play.

The Ravens upgraded cornerback Samari Rolle (neck), wide receiver Derrick Mason (thigh), center Mike Flynn (thigh) and safety Gerome Sapp (thigh) to probable.


The Ravens' B.J. Sams -- the only player in the NFL ranked in the top 10 in both punt and kickoff return average -- is on injured reserve. He was replaced two games ago by the co-smallest player in the league, Cory Ross. Ross and Darren Sproles are 5 feet 6 inches. A rookie out of Nebraska, Ross has returned seven punts (2.6 avg.) and six kickoffs (21.8). He'll test the Steelers' coverage units that have allowed 2.8 yards per punt return and 18.2 per kickoff return the last four games, after allowing 8.8 and 24.4 the first 10 games.

"It definitely helps having James [Harrison] back, but I think guys are just playing a lot harder," said special teams co-captain Clint Kriewaldt. "When you watch on film, it seems like guys are throwing their bodies around a lot more. I don't know if guys are just understanding the importance of it now, but it's definitely a big change, and it's how we should've been playing all year."


Just in case Bill Cowher retires, reporters in Iowa covered their bases. They asked Pittsburgh native and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz if he has any interest in the Steelers' job.

"They've got some good guys right in that building," Ferentz said. "My guess is that's where they'd go. But I'm not interested and I doubt they are either. I've got a great job right here."

A former assistant to Bill Belichick and Ted Marchibroda, Ferentz has interviewed for vacant NFL positions in the past, and is one of the hot young coaches – or was.

"That's one good thing about going 6-6, huh? That's the first question I've had," he said. "Is there a Canadian League job open?"


The Steelers signed inside linebacker Richard Seigler and waived wide receiver Walter Young. Seigler was one of the last cuts at training camp and was signed to the practice squad during the week. Young made his first career catch to convert a third down against the Cleveland Browns.


• Cowher on Santonio Holmes' off-the-field behavior:

"The more you're around him, the more you understand him. This is not a kid that hangs around at night. Obviously the Miami situation -- wrong place, wrong time. That's just not him. The other one we talked about I think has been rectified. He's a young man who's had to deal with a lot of responsibility at an early age. He's got a lot of people leaning on him. But this is a very responsible kid, a very proud kid. The more you're around him, the more you can appreciate his work habits, his perspective. If he stays grounded, which I think he will because he's that type of kid, he's got a lot going for him in the future."

• Cowher on injured Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden:

"He's certainly the best, if not one of the best, at his position."

• Ravens coach Brian Billick on dominating the previous meeting:

"I wish I could put my finger on it. If I knew specifically, I would sleep a lot easier right now. We just took on a mentality, not that we didn't have it before. They are very sound in what they do and we matched that soundness in our execution. That sounds oversimplistic, but we executed at a very direct, basic, and efficient way against them. That's what you have to do against Pittsburgh because they don't make a lot of mistakes."

Casey Hampton on the Ravens:

"They embarrassed us last time and it's really personal this time. A lot of guys in here are thinking like that. They embarrassed us. Ain't no other way to look at it."

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