2012 NFL Training Camp: Can Troy Smith Make Steelers' Depth Chart?
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This offseason, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State finds himself on the side of Baltimore's division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, heading into the upcoming season, battling Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch and fellow newcomer Jerrod Johnson for a spot on the Pittsburgh quarterback depth chart behind starter Ben Roethlisberger.
Smith's journey to the Steelers began as nearly being the starting quarterback in Baltimore after the 2007 season when he filled in moderately well for the unproductive Kyle Boller, posting 506 total yards passing and rushing along with three touchdowns in four games for the Ravens.
His 2007 even included a solid performance in Week 17, when he led Baltimore over Pittsburgh, 27-21, completing 16-of-27 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown. It was a definite statement game for Smith to close his rookie campaign and build toward 2008 as the full-time starter.
But a rare and extremely debilitating disease called Lemierre's Syndrome, a condition affecting the throat and lungs, took hold of Smith that year. In full bloom, Smith not only contracted tonsillitis but also lost upwards of 50 pounds due to the sickness, severely limiting his progress as the Ravens' next starting quarterback. That, along with the instant success of rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, stalled Smith's appearances in Baltimore for the 2008 season.
By 2009, although fully recovered, Smith had been permanently shifted to a backup roll as Flacco's success continued as the starter. The Ravens released Smith in the offseason after signing former Rams starter Marc Bulger.
The 2010 season would be a whirlwind for Smith as he was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers and again found himself battling for the starting job with the inconsistent Alex Smith. By Week 8, coach Mike Singletary, amidst a 1-6 start, gave Troy Smith the nod to start against Denver, where he would lead the 49ers to three fourth-quarter touchdowns and a thrilling victory over the Broncos.
He followed that with a monster of a game against St. Louis, posting 356 yards passing en route another 49er victory. Although he had notched two impressive wins, Smith would go 1-2 over the next three games as the starter before being benched in favor of Alex Smith.
Singletary's firing and Jim Harbaugh's hiring as the next coach in San Francisco all but sealed Troy Smith's fate again. He was released by the team following the 2010 season.
After two consecutive roller coaster seasons in the NFL, Smith was signed by the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League in the fall of 2011, where he achieved moderate success as a backup and starter for the team.
Smith would not be in exile long from the NFL as he was signed by the Steelers earlier this year as a possible backup option for the 2012 season.
With the expectations set as it being a backup position, Smith finds himself in the thick of a very competitive training camp with Leftwich, Batch and Johnson to make the depth chart as possible No. 3. Right now, Smith is taking the snaps with the fourth team, which makes distinguishing himself even more difficult from the rest.
However, the one plus on Smith's side is the fact that everyone is having to learn the new playbook under the newly installed Todd Haley. That, at least, gives some kind of equal footing for Smith in trying to secure a backup role on the depth chart.
The fact remains that Smith posted decent numbers in his patchwork seasons in Baltimore and San Francisco. For his career, he has thrown for 1,734 yards and eight touchdowns with a 51.7 completion percentage. He has also been viable on the ground, rushing for 230 yards on 52 attempts.
The battle for even third on the depth chart looks to be a long shot for Smith, but even if he can't unseat Leftwich or Batch, there is still the possibility he could fill the Antwaan Randle El void of being a utility option at receiver or returner with the passing trick play in some packages.
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