The Dallas Cowboys have solidified their spot in the NFL playoffs, while the Pittsburgh Steelers are still fighting for one of the coveted AFC Wildcard openings.
Dan Quinn has assembled one of the leagues top defenses in Dallas, After 16 weeks, the Cowboys boast the No, 7 defense in the NFL, allowing just under 300 yards per game to their opponents so far.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers have had most of their struggles on the offensive side of the ball — and eventually parted ways with offensive coordinator Matt Canada — they showed life in their upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Surprisingly, with a defensive roster loaded with talent like TJ Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and their first round selection from the 2023 NFL Draft, Joey Porter Jr., the Steelers have struggled defensively at times and currently rank No. 21 in the NFL allowing 348 yards per game.
The bright spot? Pittsburgh has played its best defense when it matters the most allowing just 29 touchdowns from opponents this season. Only five other NFL teams have allowed fewer in 2023.
Pittsburgh Steelers Sign Former Dallas Cowboys Star Jaylon Smith
As Mike Tomlin and company attempt to make a late playoff push, they added a potential game-changer on defense according to reports on Tuesday night.
While it was considered a gamble at the time, the Dallas Cowboys drafted the former Notre Dame star with the 34th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Smith was recovering from a severe knee injury, and didn’t see the field his first season in the league.
But in 2017, Jaylon Smith was fully healthy and began to show his potential. Smith finished his 2nd NFL season in 2017 with 81 combined tackles (50 solo), two pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and one sack in 16 games and six starts.
Smith Has Proven He Can Be A Game Wrecker
In 2018, Smith finally showed the NFL world what he was truly capable of when fully healthy..
Smith finished with four sacks, 121 total tackles, four passes defended, and two forced fumbles. He was ranked 61st by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2019.
HIs production in 2018 earned the versatile linebacker a five-year $64 million contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys with $35.5 million guaranteed, keeping him under contract through the 2024 season.
He closed out the 2019 campaign with 2.5 sacks, 142 total tackles, one interception, nine passes defended, and two forced fumbles.. He was ranked 88th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2020.
Jaylon Smith had another productive season in 2020, finishing the year with 1.5 sacks, 145 total tackles, one interception, and five passes defended.
On October 5, 2021, the Cowboys released Smith after he declined to waive his 2022 injury guarantee contract clause, to protect the team from a possible payment of $9.2 million, and after he was passed on the depth chart by rookie Micah Parsons and veteran Keanu Neal. He appeared in 4 games with 2 starts during the season.
He finished his Dallas Cowboys career with 68 games, 516 tackles (20 for loss), 9 sacks, 2 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 5 fumble recoveries (including one returned for a touchdown).
Since parting with the Cowboys, Smith has bounced around the league and struggled to produce at the level he did during his peak in Dallas.
He had brief stints with the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, but saw limited game action. The New York Giants brought Smith back in 2022 and he seemed to find his groove again. He appeared in 13 games with 11 starts, tallying 74 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery. Smith became an anchor on the Giants defense, leading the linebackers with 724 defensive snaps (including the playoffs).
This season, he was signed to the Saints practice squad before getting released. The Raiders picked him up but ultimately released him on Nov. 22.
Maybe a change of scenery with a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has a bevy of defensive talent can revitalize Jaylon Smith’s career. Only time will tell.