PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown has a fan in Steve Smith, who has spent his career showing that shorter pass catchers can thrive in a league that is enamored with tall wide receivers.
"Oh man that kid. When I grow up I want to be like him," the 35-year-old Smith said laughing. "He's getting involved so early and [he's] so good that he's in that groove where you could throw him the ball in the parking lot [and] and he's going to catch it with one-hand, tip-toe, stay in bounds and score. That's how well he's playing. It's always cool to see a young guy who's worked his tail off and come in there and play."
The 14th-year veteran is seventh in the NFL with 675 receiving yards and is averaging 16.5 yards per catch.
It has not gone unnoticed by the 5-9, 195-pound Smith that seven of the top 10 players in the NFL in receiving yards are listed at 6-feet or under.
That includes the 5-10, 186-pound Brown, who is second in the NFL with 852 receiving yards.
"The little guys are coming back to rule the world. We're coming back [and] we're here to stay," Smith said laughing. "That's the bottom line. The big guys you can throw it up to them but at the end of the day when you want to move the sticks you have to throw it to the little guys. We move the needle and I think Antonio is doing that."
Smith will play in his second Ravens-Steelers game Sunday night but he already understands what the rivalry is all about after spending his first 13 seasons in the NFC.
"When you think about smash-mouth football in the AFC and smash-mouth football in the NFC you think of the NFC East and you think of the AFC North. Now having an opportunity to play in the AFC North it is what everyone talks about," Smith said. "[Ravens-Steelers] is a rivalry game that tempers get heated and this starts from the very first kickoff. I'm getting a full-on dose of that and it just makes my skin crawl to be a part of that. To be able to live that opportunity in the NFL it's pretty dang cool to be honest."