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Ike Taylor: Steve Smith toughest receiver to cover

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When five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber retired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two years ago, he cited Steve Smith as the toughest wide receiver he was ever assigned to cover.

It was high praise coming from a potential Hall of Famer who squared off against the likes of Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison.

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Recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor lent credence to Barber's assessment, echoing the Smith appreciation on Wednesday's edition of NFL Total Access.

"Little Mighty Mouse, I call him," said Taylor, who also covered a lot of ground on The Dave Dameshek Football Program this week. "He's only 5'10" and some change, but he plays like a 6'3" guy. ... all-around No. 1, Steve Smith."

That's a pair of respected cornerbacks with a combined 372 NFL starts offering their imprimatur.

Smith has been one of the best players of his generation. It's time he starts gaining recognition for the following Hall of Fame credentials:

» There has been no tougher receiver or better route runner over the past decade.

» Among players ranked in the top 25 for career postseason receiving yards, Smith's average of 91.0 per game ranks first. Michael Irvin (82.2) ranks second, with Jerry Rice (77.4) third.

» In a revealing article highlighting the diminutive receiver's career dominance, Football Perspective's Chase Stuart notes that Smith's 2005 season was the best in modern history in terms of receiving yards per team pass attempt. Smith's 2008 season is the second best.

» Since the 1970 merger, Smith (2005), Rice (1990) and Sterling Sharpe (1992) are the only players to win the wide-receiver triple crown, leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

» Per Stuart's metrics, that 2005 season ranks as the 12th-best by a wide receiver since 1932. Smith then added 373 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns in three playoff games.

» From 2005 through 2008, Smith was the most dominant receiver in the league. In 48 games with Jake Delhomme at quarterback over that span, Smith averaged an astonishing 101.3 yards from scrimmage to go with 38 touchdowns.

» Smith is currently 14th on the career receiving yards list, with a chance to ascend to the top 10 if he posts another 1,000-yard season in 2015. He's also 13th in career postseason receiving yards. Not bad for a receiver who lost one season to a broken leg and had two more years sabotaged by league-worst quarterback play.

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