Steelers' Smith welcomes Patriots to target him

PITTSBURGH -- His head coach told him he shouldn't have done
it. His teammates warned him to watch his words. His family hopes
he knows what he's getting himself into.

Despite all that clamor, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Anthony Smith isn't taking back his words. He guaranteed a victory over the New England Patriots and, on Thursday, said he's not backing down.

Smith, a second-year safety from Syracuse, insists he's not
trying to make a name for himself by boldly guaranteeing the
Steelers will halt the Patriots' drive for the NFL's first 16-0
regular season.

"I just felt we're going to go out there, we're going to have a
good week of practice and everybody's focused, and we're going to
get a victory," Smith said.

In Smith's mind, he merely spoke what everyone else in
Pittsburgh's locker room is thinking: The Steelers (9-3) are going
to Foxborough on Sunday to win, and nothing else.

Even if some teammates wish Smith hadn't opened his mouth,
possibly giving an inspirational lift to a Patriots team that
looked tired after rallying in the final minute to beat Baltimore
27-24 on Monday night.

Defensive back Tyrone Carter pulled Smith aside when he arrived
at the Steelers' practice complex Thursday, and his message was
simple: Don't carelessly give other teams words they can throw back
at you.

"I said, `You can't really do stuff like that,"' Carter said.
"You've got to really think about it, the stuff that you say. I
don't care how you feel about it, you've still got to think about

Wide receiver Hines Ward also said a young player such as Smith
needs to be careful in a league where even the most casual and
harmless remark can provide motivation to an opponent.

"You don't need to give New England any bulletin board material
to motivate themselves," Ward said. "You've got to be smarter and
be careful what you say."

The reaction among the Patriots players was mixed. Rodney
Harrison said he's never heard of Smith and doesn't care what he
said, but linebacker Junior Seau said such comments do wind up on
locker room bulletin boards.

Smith isn't worried his remarks will make him more of a target

"For a receiver to try to come get me?" Smith said, clearly
amused by the notion. "If receivers come after me, I welcome it."

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, too?

"I hope they do," Smith said. "I haven't been getting a lot
of action, so hopefully I get a chance to make some plays. If the
receivers come after me, I welcome it."

Doesn't sound like Smith has lost any of his confidence. He made
those remarks even after Mike Tomlin -- who, despite being a head
coach, still finds time to do a daily crossword puzzle -- cautioned
him about the power of the spoken and written word.

Tomlin also suggested that the best thing for a player to say
often is nothing at all.

"In this business, it's not about what we say, it's what we
do," Tomlin said.

Some of Smith's friends and family members also called him after
the guarantee became public, some out of curiosity and others out
of concern.

Defensive end Aaron Smith received some of the very same calls
after friends saw a headline reading, "Steelers' A. Smith
guarantees win over Patriots."

"I said, `What are they talking about?' " Aaron Smith said.

Now that he knows, Aaron Smith isn't particularly worried his
teammate's comments will provide extra motivational fuel for the
Patriots, whose quest for the NFL's first 16-0 regular-season
record would seem to be incentive enough.

"The fact is we want to win the game, that's why we play the
game," Aaron Smith said. "If we didn't think we could win, why
would we even bother showing up? I don't know exactly how he said
it but, in reality, we plan on going up there and winning the

Should the Steelers do that, Anthony Smith is likely to be
remembered as much for what he said before the game as how he
played in it.

"I could look like a mind reader or a fortune teller or
something like that," he said.

Meanwhile, it seems likely Carter will make his third
consecutive start at strong safety in place of Troy Polamalu
(knee), who did not practice Thursday.

On Tuesday, Tomlin said he expected Polamalu to play, and the
former Pro Bowl defensive back did work out Wednesday. Missing
Thursday's practice appears to be a setback for Polamalu, who
hasn't played since the Steelers' 19-16 overtime loss to the New
York Jets on Nov. 18.