Can Steve Smith make the Hall of Fame?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Smitty is unquestionably the greatest Panther of all time, but it remains to be seen if his career is illustrious enough for Canton.

Steve Smith has over 11,000 receiving yards for the Carolina Panthers, but despite those yards, two All Pro selections, and four Pro Bowls he's on the outside looking in to make the Hall of Fame.

Comments this week by Ronde Barber solidify how Smith is viewed by NFL players. A tenacious competitor, and rare-talent -- but this isn't enough to get recognized by the national media who vote. Furthermore, for all the great work he's done off the field, they're accomplishments that are easy to overlook in the wake of widely-known issues like his run in with Ken Lucas, and most recently his comments about Mark Sanchez.

In Carolina we know that Smith is one of the most misunderstood players in the league. A (mostly) humble, quiet, family man who relishes his privacy. Nationally he's seen as another diva wide receiver with a 'me first' attitude, and issues with past teammates. Reconciling these two faces is key to getting him noticed when he retires, but even then it's a long road.

Twelve wide receivers have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and only three from the modern era: Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, and Cris Carter. Of these three, the only player worth making the comparison to is Irvin.

GP REC YDS AVG TD All Pro Pro Bowl SB Wins
Michael Irvin 159 750 11,904 15.9 65 1 5 3
Steve Smith 167 772 11,412 14.8 63 2 4 0

Super Bowl wins matter. While it's not fair to evaluate individuals so heavily on a team-based metric, it's just the way things are. Irvin is in Canton because of his rings, and while Smith may manage to win one (knock on wood... please), he wont win three before his career is done.

Here is where it gets a lot more tricky. Smith currently sits 23rd on the all-time receiving list, and only two active players are ahead of him. However, it becomes difficult to fight for him in relation to other modern-era receivers.

- Terrell Owens: 15,934 yards, 153 TDs -- 5-time All Pro, 6-time Pro Bowl

- Randy Moss: 15,292 yards, 156 TDs -- 4-time All Pro, 6-time Pro Bowl

- Isaac Bruce: 15,208 yards, 91 TDs -- 4-time Pro Bowl

- Tim Brown: 14,934 yards, 100 TDs -- 9-time Pro Bowl

- Marvin Harrison: 14,580 yards, 120 TDs -- 3-time All Pro, 8-time Pro Bowl

- Torry Holt: 13,382 yards, 74 TDs -- 1-time All Pro, 7-time Pro Bowl

- Andre Reed: 13,198 yards, 87 TDs -- 7-time Pro Bowl

- Reggie Wayne: 13,063 yards, 78 TDs -- 1-time All Pro, 6-time Pro Bowl

- Irving Fryar: 12,785 yards, 84 TDs -- 5-time Pro Bowl

- Hines Ward: 12,083 yards, 85 TDs -- 4-time Pro Bowl

Ten receivers, all of whom are more likely to make it to Canton before Steve Smith -- and some of these players are hardly locks. You're really looking at only a few who are guaranteed to add to that list of 12, and Smith is on the outside.

Add into the fact that younger receivers are nipping at his heels, and it becomes a more problematic pursuit. Andre Johnson is under 200 yards behind Smith, and is two years younger. Larry Fitzgerald will pass Smith also before his career is over, and it's likely Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall will do the same.

Look at the HoF in a vacuum and it's easy to compare Smith to Irvin and find a way to put him in, but when you match him to the guys waiting in line, and those yet to come -- it becomes impossible. While he'll remind the greatest Panther of all time for a while, don't hold your breath for Canton. It's just not in the cards.

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