Names synonymous with the phrase “New York Giants greats” are Lawrence Taylor, Eli Manning, and Michael Strahan. However, there have been plenty of players in Giants history who deserve more recognition. One player in particular who deserves more recognition is Steve Smith.
Steve Smith: Remembering Underappreciated New York Giants
Rookie Turned Hero
Steve Smith was drafted in the second round by the New York Giants in the 2007 NFL Draft. In his injury-plagued rookie season, he made minimal contributions during the regular season. He had a meager eight receptions for 63 yards in five games. However, he turned a poor rookie season into a productive postseason performance. In four playoff games, he recorded 14 receptions for 152 yards. In Super Bowl XLII against the New England Patriots, he had a clutch performance. Although his stat line was only five receptions for 50 yards, he recorded some crucial receptions.
Everyone remembers the “Helmet Catch” but few people remember Steve Smith’s first down conversion on third and 11. On this specific play with 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Smith ran an out route and caught the ball a few yards shy of the first down marker. After making the reception, he extended the play for an extra few yards in order get a first down and then got out of bounds. This play set up the memorable fade to Plaxico Burress. This crucial third down reception will not go down as one of the defining moments in the Super Bowl, but it was one of the most crucial plays for the Giants to secure their third Lombardi trophy.
2009 Pro Bowl Season
The 2008 season was not a memorable season for Steve Smith. However, that all changed during a 2009 NFL season that saw a drastic uptick in production. Smith put up historic numbers in his third season as a pro. He was targeted 157 times and recorded 107 receptions, only trailing behind Wes Welker’s 123 receptions. He broke the Giants single season record for receptions. In addition to his 107 receptions, he also had 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith became Manning’s most reliable receiver that season.
He led the young group of receivers in all categories. Smith was never a flashy receiver, but he was always the most dependable. Smith was the Giants version of Wes Welker. He was someone who always found a way to get open. When the Giants needed a conversion, Manning looked in Smith’s direction. However, even with the numbers he produced, he was only selected to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
After that Pro Bowl season, Smith never replicated his success. His 2010 season was an injury-riddled one. Smith had a four-game absence due to a torn pectoral muscle and then his season was eventually cut short due to a torn ACL. He recorded 529 yards before the injury. After the injury, Smith was never the same, losing the crispness of his route running that made him so difficult to cover. He went on to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles and then the Los Angeles Rams (formerly known as the St. Louis Rams) before he decided to hang up his cleats.
Although his career ended abruptly, he was a key piece of the Giants 2007 Super Bowl run. Manning, Burress, and the entire defense get the credit, but Smith made key plays to keep drives, as well as the Giants title hopes, alive. Giants fans will forever be grateful for Smith’s contributions, and he deserves more recognition than he gets for playing a key role with the title-winning team.