Ten games into the 2011 NFL season, Smith is third in the league with 992 yards receiving and he is averaging an impressive 17.7 yards per catch.
Much of his individual success this season stems from the on-field connection he has developed with the Panthers quarterback and likely 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year, Cam Newton.
Perhaps energized by his youthful quarterback, Smith has played much younger than his age and is on pace to have his best statistical season ever.
Smith Asked For Trade in 2010
Things were not so rosy in 2010.
Just a season ago, with Jimmy Clausen throwing the ball his way, Smith had his worst statistical season since his rookie year, except in 2004 when he only played in one game.
Things were so bad last year for the 2-14 Panthers that he asked to be traded before the season ever ended.
Hell, he even went to Jerry Richardson's house last year to ask the Big Cat to send him elsewhere because of the Panthers' lack of competitiveness and his perceived diminished role in the offense.
Smith seemed to back off of his demands after working out with Newton in offseason OTAs, but in retrospect, maybe he should have been more insistent upon being traded after all.
Smitty Deserves Opportunity To Win
Smith suffered through a one-win season in 2002 and last year's league-worst 2-14 record after Richardson gutted the team and braced for a potential 2011 season-ending lockout.
Carolina selected a franchise quarterback in Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and they will undoubtedly go to great lengths to improve their dreadful defense through free-agency and the 2012 NFL draft.
The Panthers have at least been competitive in all but one game this season, a 30-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans—but with only two wins entering this weekend's contest against the winless Indianapolis Colts, they are still a couple of seasons away from threatening to win the NFC South.
Smith could have put up big numbers had he been traded to a team like the suddenly struggling San Diego Chargers (4-6) or the mighty Baltimore Ravens (8-3), and he would have had more wins and playoff hopes to show for it.
At age 32, Smith does not have many more years to wait for the Panthers to rebuild.
The Greatest Panther?
Aside from Reggie White, Steve Smith is arguably the best football player to ever wear a Carolina Panthers uniform.
When his Hall of Fame-caliber career with the Panthers comes to an end, Smith will likely join the late Sam Mills as the second player in the franchise's Hall of Honor.
Along with Jordan Gross, Smith is the only current Panther who played in Super Bowl XXXVIII, aka, the Super Bowl with the most Roman numerals, and he will retire with every receiving record in franchise history, surpassing the great Mushin Muhammad in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Smitty has put in his time in Carolina and he deserves the opportunity to play for another Super Bowl contender while he is still in his prime, even if that means parting ways with the Panthers.
They say that sometimes the people you love the most are the ones you have to set free.
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