Tomlin: Anthony Smith not a thug
Mike Tomlin took exception to a recent newspaper story that referred to free safety Anthony Smith as a thug, and the Steelers coach made it clear that he is still simmering over what he said is a mischaracterization of Smith.
"He's not a thug," Tomlin said at a news conference today. "He's a young professional football player who is trying to be at his best who happens to play the game very physically. I was offended by that reference to him."
Smith is one of the Steelers' fiercest hitters, and he has occasionally belted one of his own teammates in practice even though the team almost never tackles during drills.
Smith collided with Hines Ward last week in practice, knocking the veteran wide receiver to the ground after he had made a catch during a 7-on-7 drill. Ward did not comment after practice on the hit but he clearly wasn't happy about it.
Smith said the two have talked and everything is fine between them.
"He didn't take it personal," Smith said. "He knew it wasn't personal so what is there to be mad at?"
Tomlin said today Smith shouldn't have hit Ward. However, he said a line was crossed when Smith was labeled a thug.
"We understand that perception all of the time is not reality," Tomlin said. "But something things are written or said that are hurtful."
In other news, cornerback Deshea Townsend (groin) won't play Thursday night when the Steelers take on the Bills in Toronto. Others that won't play in the 7:30 p.m. game include free safety and Woodland Hills graduate Ryan Mundy (ankle), linebacker Mike Humpal (stinger), defensive tackle Kyle Clement (knee) and strong safety Troy Polamalu (hamstring).
Byron Leftwich, who signed with the Steelers Sunday, will play against the Bills, Tomlin said.
The Steelers signed Leftwich to back up starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Charlie Batch broke his right collarbone.
Tomlin said Roethlisberger and the first-team offense will play more than they did in the team's preseason opener last Friday.
Justin Hartwig will work with the starters while Sean Mahan will play with the second-team offensive line. The two are battling for the starting job at center.