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Ravens receiving corps led by fiery Steve Smith Sr represents tough match-up for Raiders

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After a week against a weak and depleted receiving corps in Tennessee, the Raiders face perhaps their toughest match-up this season.

Even at the age of 37, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr is one of the best in the business. He’s been a fiery presence in the NFL for a long time and yet no matter how much he talks – and he talks a LOT – he backs it up. Time and time again.

Smith’s most famous statement is "Ice up, son" in response to Aqib Talib after Smith had roasted him on Monday Night Football back in 2013 – a game the Panthers beat the Patriots 24-20.

This week Smith has been engaged in a public war of words with rookie defensive back Jalen Ramsey. Certainly an unwise move on the part of Ramsey against a seasoned trash talker like Smith.

Smith had 8 catches for 87 yards in the Ravens' 19-17 win over the Jaguars and had gotten in Ramsey’s face following the game. Ramsey then claimed he beat Smith all day "both physically and psychologically", going on to say he had no respect for him. Smith responded in kind on twitter like this:

Ravens running back Justin Forsett has spent the past three seasons in Baltimore with Smith and knows just how unwise it is to go after him publicly.

"I don’t understand why anybody would want to poke a bear," said Forsett. "Steve Smith is that guy. He thrives off of that, you know, people talking to him. As a team we see him get sparked up, it just sparks us up and it’s good to be around a guy that’s kinda contagious like that with his energy."

For those reasons, Smith has always been beloved by his teammates and coaches.

"Steve’s unique," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said this week. "He brings so much. He’s obviously a very good player. But you don’t have to hear Steve say it, just watch him play to know that. And then the leadership, the competitiveness, the football IQ. All those things are really valuable."

Last season when the Raiders faced the Ravens, Smith had 10 catches for 150 yards. And lest you think that was just a fluke because of the Raiders’ terrible secondary last season, the following week against the Bengals he put up 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. When he was lost to injury midseason, he was on pace for his best season since 2011 when he had 1394 receiving yards and went to the Pro Bowl.

What the 5-9, 185-pounder lacks in stature, he makes up for in grit and fire. Not to mention athleticism and speed.

The first two weeks of the season, the Raiders’ secondary – and Sean Smith in particular – were burnt by the likes of Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Julio Jones. Not to mention the issues they had with Falcons’ tight ends. This week they face a speedy and productive wide receiver trio of Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, and Breshad Perriman along with their leading receiver — tight end Dennis Pitta.

"[Joe] Flacco’s a guy that’s very accurate," said Ken Norton Jr. "Steve Smith, he always has a chip on his shoulder, still does all the things he’s been able to do, catch and run, playing with a lot of attitude. The team is winning. They’re winning a certain way and they’re going to be a really strong challenge for us."

Last week the Raiders secondary came together with the help of the insertion of rookie top pick Karl Joseph to the lineup and played by far their best game of the season. But they did it against a Titans’ team whose number one receiver — tight end Delanie Walker — wasn’t even playing in the game and the remaining wide receivers are among the least productive in the NFL.

You want a real test of whether this Raiders secondary has turned the corner, they’ll get one from Smith and company on Sunday.