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Troy Smith opens Steelers tenure with jab at Browns

We're in a stretch of the offseason made rich by the sheer number of project players and castoffs -- especially quarterbacks -- looking for new life in the NFL.

Case in point: Troy Smith. The 2006 Heisman Trophy winner hasn't played in the NFL since 2010, but he's hoping to catch on with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he'll need to outduel veterans Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch. (Anyone who read our love letter to NFL backups knows that toppling Batch won't come easy.)

Smith, however, doesn't lack confidence. Looking back on his three-year run with the Baltimore Ravens, Smith told The Associated Press on Tuesday that if he hadn't come down with tonsillitis in 2008 and lost 45 pounds, he would have given then-rookie Joe Flacco a run for his money.

"We still competed," Smith said. "If I don't become sick, we're probably not talking about this."

Um-hmm. Moving through the AFC North (and making matters somewhat complex on the home front), Smith's family is littered with Cleveland Browns fans. The former Ohio State star grew up rooting for Pittsburgh's age-old rivals, but promises there won't be a conflict playing for the Steelers. Besides, Cleveland never picked up the phone. Pittsburgh did.

"(The Browns have) been making baffling decisions ... for a long time," Smith said. "They drive my mom crazy."

Upshot: We're hearing a fair amount of colorful conversation from a quarterback, who spent last season with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. Here in May, that's not unusual. We'll be more surprised if Smith is in the conversation come September.

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