We try to be fair and balanced here at BehindtheSteelCurtain, so if there's going to be a list of the disappointing developments in the Steelers' 2007 season, you better believe there will also be a list celebrating the surprisingly noteworthy individual performances of this year.
I begin with Jeff Reed, our lovably drunk place kicker who is known more for his propensity to denudate than for his place-kicking skills.
If the Tennessee Titans were actually able to finish off a scoring drive, Jeff Reed might be headed to Honolulu in place of Rob Bironas, who rightfully garnered the nod for his 35 FG season.
Reed actually finished the year with a higher FG % than Bironas - 92% vs. 89.7%. Although Reed's 23 FGs put him in the middle of the pack in the NFL, no kicker with more than 13 attempts had a higher % than Reed. He also converted on all 44 of his XPAs.
Reed still leaves plenty to be desired in the kickoff game, but it's notoriously difficult to kick for distance at Heinz Field. His place-kicking, however, was nearly perfect this year, with one of his 2 misses coming against Miami in unplayable conditions. Reed was hardly a question mark heading into this year, but last year he missed 7 of his 27 attempts, good for only 74.1%. I'm not sure where I'd list the importance of having a great kicker in the NFL, but it's not trivial, that's for sure. These games are decided by painstakingly close variables, and if you can't rely on your kicker, you're going to miss out on one or two wins a year. That, often times, is the difference between the playoffs and the golf course come January.
Congratulations to Spikey on a phenomenal 2007 season. For his consistency and reliability, he's my #5 surprise for the 2007 season.