Tom Sorensen

The best player the Carolina Panthers ever had

Steve Smith (left) of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates his 18-yard touchdown reception with Joe Flacco against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Christmas Day.
Steve Smith (left) of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates his 18-yard touchdown reception with Joe Flacco against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Christmas Day. Getty Images

I watched Steve Smith and his Baltimore Ravens lose 31-27 to Pittsburgh on Christmas Day and thought, this could be the last nationally televised game Smith will ever play. Pittsburgh's victory eliminates the Ravens from the playoffs.

The season is the last in a three-year contract Smith signed after being jettisoned by Carolina. If he wants another season, the Ravens will give him one. He's 37, but he's still Steve Smith. Against Pittsburgh, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco went to him seven times and Smith caught seven passes for 79 yards, a touchdown and a 2-point conversion.

Smith is seventh all-time in NFL receiving yards and 12th in receptions. His is a Hall of Fame career. Although he played from 2001-13 for the Carolina Panthers, catching passes from Rodney Peete, Chris Weinke, Jake Delhomme and Newton, he could choose to wear Ravens' colors when he's inducted. Whatever he does, he remains the best player Carolina has ever had, and it's tough to imagine the NFL without him.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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