I saw Aaron Smith in the post-game Miami locker room and from his facial expression I knew it was bad news. We kibitzed a bit, and then Aaron headed off to face the media.
No, his season isn’t officially done, but the weight of his injury and the once again monumental uphill battle of injury, surgery and re-hab will begin again for Aaron. And in this, his 12th year, makes it all the harder. Because, frankly, after a while, it gets old. Yeah the money’s good. Yeah it’s a lot of fun to play on Sundays, but the re-hab stuff is a pain to go through.
Trying to smile and put a i’m-going-to-be-okay face on after you blow out a body part is more of a test of your resilience than anything else. Automatically in the back of your mind is the road to recovery foreknowledge that it’s going to be difficult. And there’s always the thought that you might not make it back all the way. After 12 years, and suffering his 3rd major injury in the last four years, nobody could blame him if he said i’ve had enough.
But I hope not.
Before Aaron left the game, as with the previous games, Aaron was playing lights out. Nobody reads blocking schemes faster, holds the point better (while often being double-teamed), and transitions from run defense to pass rush faster and with more consistency than Smith.
A 3-4 defensive end in the Steelers scheme of things is more like a 4-3 defensive tackle. If playing nose tackle is like crossing the parkway on all fours during rush hour, then playing DE is having to do it on two feet. Better odds, but still a major challenge.
Here’s hoping that Aaron’s “Seat on the bus” stays open, not just because Coach Mike is holding it for him, but also because the Steelers are making a deep run into January-February football.