Q&A: Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith became a dad for the fourth time on Friday. The right defensive end might be considered "the dad" of the Steelers' defense as well; at least that's how guys like Ryan Clark and James Farrior feel when asked what happened late last season. They point to the loss of Smith, who tore his right biceps and missed the homestretch. Here's Aaron:

Aaron Smith, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: The problems with the run defense; everyone says it's because of your injury. Are they right?

A: I appreciate the credit, but what was the problem last year? It's hard to say. I don't know. I don't know what the difference was.

Q: Their point is you've got to stay healthy.

A: I think the guys we have a very capable of doing the jobs themselves backing up. I think there's more to it than just saying ‘Aaron wasn't playing.' I mean, the fact is there are 11 guys out there. Travis [Kirschke] and Nick [Eason] and the guys who were playing are very capable of getting the job done. It's just a matter of everything else, putting it together. I will say this: I appreciate it, but I always joke with everybody and say ‘I've become a better player since I've gotten hurt.' Seems I'm making plays and doing things that I don't know if I would've made. Everybody says, ‘The defense would've been great if Aaron had been there.' Suddenly I've become a much better player. I don't know if I'm making those plays. I mean, I'm very grateful for the compliment but it's hard to say what the thing was.

Q: How likely are you going to stay healthy? Seems like people are nervous.

A: Nervous?

Q: Is that biceps injury a potential recurring problem?

A: I think it'll probably be stronger than my other one, to be honest with you. My arm was helped. My feeling is it's something I've probably been playing with for a while and it just happened to be the straw that broke the camel's back. I feel great. I can do all the drills. It's just a matter of everybody being more safe.

Q: So they are nervous.

A: Well, I think they just don't want to take the risk of something happening now when you can get a couple extra months of healing and then get after it. But really I think I can do everything. If I had to play right now I could play.

Q: What about camp? Will they take it easy on you in camp?

A: Oh I'm sure. And that's what I call babysitting.

Q: How does it feel to have elevated into being babysat like Rod Woodson and Joey Porter?

A: Some guys are gifted enough athletes that they can just go out without practicing. Jerome [Bettis] used to do it too. Those guys are special. They could take the whole week off then go out on Sundays and it doesn't seem to affect them one bit. Me? I feel I need to work every day. I'm the type of guy that needs to be out there on the field. I like to do it during the week and then when I hit it on Sunday I have confidence in it that I did it all week and then I'll be fine on Sunday. I like to be out there working.

Q: Run defense has been taken for granted here throughout your career, but Jacksonville scorched you guys and people realized they'd taken it for granted.

A: Yeah, watching that, it was different. We take some pride in stopping the run, so for me to be out and actually watch that happen and not be able to help or do anything about that, that was hard. Jacksonville's a great running team. They've got two good running backs, a good offensive line, so it's a tough challenge in normal times, but I think we'll be fine. I think we'll be back to our former level, if not better.

Q: Back to where all the media and fans can go back to taking the run defense –

A: Back to taking the run-stopping for granted? Yeah. I think we'll be all right. You're going to have those times, those games where you just can't stop something. Like I said, Jacksonville's a good running team. They would've been a tough challenge no matter who was playing.

Q: You guys did well against them in the playoff game, didn't you?

A: They did do well. They did. The first time they played them, I was just out of surgery. I was two days out of surgery and I had to watch that at home and that was awful to watch a team run the ball like that. I actually turned off the TV and I'd lay there a little bit, then I'd turn the TV back on. It was like watching a car wreck: You don't really want to look but you can't help it. That was hard. It's hard to watch your team play. It really is.

Q: It's the right arm isn't it?

A: Yeah. I tell everybody I was attacked by a shark and I beat him off with my left arm. It sounds much better than ‘I tore my bicep playing football.'

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