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Roster Breakdown Installment #2: The Kicking Game

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Jeff Reed
Born: April 9, 1979 Charlotte, NC
Height: 5-11
Weight: 232 lbs.
Age: 27
Pos: K
Experience: 5 years
College: North Carolina

The Pittsburgh Steelers have enjoyed a steady, if not spectacular, kicking game the past two years.  The front office clearly values the guy--they gave up a draft pick to keep Reed this offseason (he is a restricted free agent).  In 2005, Reed converted on all 45 of his PATs and was a respectable 24-29 (82.8%) in FG attempts.

Reed was perfect in the postseason, hitting all 3 of his FGs and all 14 of his PATs.  His 42 yarder against the Broncos to start the 4th quarter was extremely important.  The Broncs had just scored on an Ashley Lelie touchdown reception, and had gotten within two scores.   The Broncos followed up Reed's FG with another TD drive, capped off by a Mike Anderson 3 yd run.  Had Reed missed, the Broncos would have somehow been within a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter--remember, the Steelers were up 24-3 at half.

Even though it's not always pretty with Jeff, he gets the job done.  He certainly has improved from his 23-32 (71%) performance in 2003.  

Grade: A-

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Chris Gardocki (great football name, even if he is JUST a punter)
Born: February 7, 1970
Stone Mountain, GA
Height: 6-1
Weight: 192 lbs.
Age: 36
Pos: P
Experience: 16 years
College: Clemson

Like Jeff Reed, Gardocki was an integral part of the Steelers championship run in 2005.  Gardocki finished 2005 with an average 41.8 yards/punt, and a net of 36.8 yards.  Gardocki's stats aren't all that impressive--he was not even in the top 10 in the AFC in yards per punt, but he's the best in one very important stat: NOT getting blocked.  Gardocki is the best at handling all sorts of snaps and getting the ball away quickly.  He is the current record holder for attempted punts without having one blocked.  

Grade: B+

I like both Reed and Gardocki, but I don't consider them elite performers at their position. That said, I wouldn't advocate paying someone like Vanderjagt or Vinatieri huge bucks to kick for the Steelers. Do I think the Steelers could have potentially upgraded at either position this offseason? Perhaps...but I also don't think Super Bowl winning teams fix parts that aren't broken. Neither of them was incredible last year; nor were they anywhere near unacceptable. I think the Steelers can safely rely on solid contributions from both for another several years.