Adam Schefter reported via twitter that the Steelers will be releasing long-time defensive end Aaron Smith.
Smith, who many people expected to retire following the 2011 season, has been with the Steelers since 1999. From 2000 to 2008, Smith was extremely durable, missing just five games in that stretch all of which came in the 2007 season.
His durability has become a serious issue in the past three seasons, however. Since 2009, Smith has played in a total of 15 games, and it became apparent that his time in the NFL was drawing to a close.
In his time with the Steelers, Smith accumulated 44 sacks and 453 tackles, but that’s not where his greatest value was. As the defensive end in a 3-4 system, Smith was in charge of setting the Steelers’ edge and maintaining his gap assignments while allowing the linebackers to shoot into the backfield and make big plays. It’s a role that Smith did extremely effectively in the Steelers’ system.
While the move does have a certain shock value to it, the Steelers really aren’t losing much by cutting ties with Smith. He hasn’t been on the field very often over the past three seasons, and he was set to make $2.1 million in 2012. Really, the move was a no-brainer for the cap-burdened Steelers.
I really don’t expect Smith to sign with another team. He was a great defensive end, but he’s 35 years old, and coming off of multiple injury laden seasons. Expect him to formally announce his retirement in the somewhat near future.