AFC North Q&A: Is Steve Smith a Hall of Fame receiver?

Today's question: Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. will play his 16th and final NFL season. He will be remembered as one of the toughest and fiery receivers in NFL history. But is Smith a Hall of Fame player?

Coley Harvey, Cincinnati Bengals reporter: This is a great question and one that is tougher to answer than I originally thought. After mulling it over for a long time, I will say, yes, he’s a Hall of Famer. But he won’t go in right away. As well as Smith has been perceived throughout his career, his numbers don’t quite match those of a no-doubt-about-it Hall of Fame player. He has had only one triple-digit-catch season and just one double-digit-touchdown year. He had 103 catches and 12 touchdowns in 2005, a season that earned him a Pro Bowl nod and comeback player of the year honors. Smith’s statistical legacy really lies in the postseason. He has long been at his best when seasons are on the line. His six combined touchdown catches in the 2003 and 2005 postseasons were a sign of that. If a player could get in the Hall off his grit, passion and tenacity alone, Smith would definitely be a first-ballot selection. But there’s more that goes into it.

Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: My first inclination was to say: Seriously? The second inclination was to go to the numbers. Smith has 961 receptions in his career for 13,932 yards and 76 touchdowns. He enters the season 15th in career receptions, 19th among active receivers in yards per catch (14.5), 29th in career touchdowns and 11th in receiving yards. However, he's 32nd in receiving yards per game with 68. Smith has as much heart as any player in the league, and he has been very good in his career. But this is the era of the forward pass, and the immediate standouts who come to mind are Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones. Smith's not in that group. It's not the Hall of the very good. It's the Hall of the absolute best. Smith comes close, but does not make the cut.

Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: This one is tough because of all that Smith has done for small receivers, but I would have to say no right now. There are too many receivers with better numbers who are still waiting on the Hall call, including Terrell Owens. Tim Brown has 133 more catches and 24 more touchdowns than Smith, and he waited six years before making it. Maybe a monster 2016 performance can change my mind. A few quiet years in Carolina affected his production. He failed to surpass 900 yards in six of 15 seasons, though health contributed to part of that. In this era, the yardage figures must be better. Maybe he’ll qualify because of his rep as one of the league’s most ferocious playmakers. But perception and numbers often prevail in the voting process.