Safety Anthony Smith not only thinks the Steelers have a chance Sunday to beat the undefeated New England Patriots, he guarantees it.
- Game: Steelers (9-3) vs. Patriots (12-0), 4:15 p.m.
- Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
- TV: KDKA.
"We're going to win," Smith said after practice yesterday. "Yeah, I can guarantee a win."
Smith, a hard-hitting free safety who replaced injured Ryan Clark as the starter midway through the season, said he's not worried about providing any motivation for the 12-0 Patriots.
"Now we have our swagger back on defense and we're playing great ball, and they're playing great on the offensive side, too," he said of the Steelers. "I think we have a real good chance to win the game and we will win the game."
Not only that, he said while New England's receiving corps of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth is good, those three aren't as good as Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson and Chris Henry.
"I think we were facing great receivers last week, too, and we shut them down," Smith said. "Those three guys, I don't think it gets much better than Cincinnati's corps of receivers. We've already seen the best."
Smith added a little more lumber to the fire when he said New England's receivers haven't been hit the way they will be hit Sunday.
"They said Baltimore was their most physical game, but I think we hit harder than Baltimore, so they haven't seen nothing like us yet.
"They should be worried about us. We never worry about receivers. We're the ones doing the hitting. They have to run routes. We're attacking them, they're not really attacking us."
Halfway across the Steelers locker room, defensive captain James Farrior practically let out a moan when he heard what Smith said.
"He has to keep his mouth shut," Farrior said.
Too late for that.
"Oh, well, I guess we have to go deal with that," Farrior said.
New England has a reputation as a team that feeds off such bravado. The Patriots upset the Steelers in the AFC championship game after the 2001 season in Heinz Field, then insisted that some talk by the Steelers leading up to the game helped motivate them.
"Yeah, they do," Farrior said of the Patriots becoming inspired by such talk. "But you know, he's a guy who hasn't been around the league too long so I don't even know if he's even qualified to say something like that. I don't know if they'll pay that any attention."
Does it put more pressure on Smith's teammates to back him up?
"Not really," Farrior said. "We still have to go out and play the game no matter what anybody says or what trash talking is going on.
"When players say stuff like that, I don't know if they really mean it or are just trying to get their team motivated or fired up. Usually, half the time it really gets the other team fired up."
Ever since the original and best guarantee made by Joe Namath before his Jets upset the Colts in Super Bowl III, players in all kinds of sports have come up with their own guarantees. Some times they come out as predicted, sometimes they flop, as when Joey Porter guaranteed a Dolphins win against the Raiders this year.
Smith did not think his teammates would be upset by his guarantee.
"They'll back me up. They have the same attitude anyway, so it's not like a big thing."
"Smitty's a vocal guy and says what he feels, I guess," defensive end Brett Keisel said.
While Smith's teammates weren't thrilled with his guarantee, they concurred with his general opinion that they should not be taken lightly Sunday. Even the coach said so.
"This is not an Appalachian State at Michigan football game we are going into this weekend," Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.
"We're going to be ready to go play there," Keisel said. "We know what's at stake, we know what type of team they are. It's going to be a classic game."
Farrior said the Patriots "are definitely going to have to be prepared to stop our defense. We look at it as our biggest challenge of the year as a defensive unit. We're going against No. 1. It's No. 1 vs. No. 1, so we'll see what happens."
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .