When Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham lined up to kick a 34 yard field goal on Sunday with only three seconds left, in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "Man, it's Suisham. I've never been a big fan. Didn't he choke with the Redskins and Cowboys?"
Also, the Heinz Field turf wasn't ideal because of a game-long drizzle (is it ever, anyway?), and Suisham went 23-31 in the field goal department a season ago; it seemed far from a gimme. However, the snap, hold, and yes, the kick were all true, Tomlin and Roethlisberger walked off the field arm-in-arm, and the Steelers walked away with a much needed 16-14 victory.
It was pointed out in the Post Gazette on Monday that Suisham's game-winner was the first since week 3 of last season, when he kicked a 38 yard field goal with precious seconds remaining to give the Steelers a 23-20 victory over the Colts. Suisham also kicked the game-winner in overtime to defeat the Bills two seasons ago, shortly after arriving in Pittsburgh for the departed Jeff Reed. Those games were both tied, obviously, and that got me to thinking. When was the last time a Steelers kicker hit a game-winner with the team trailing in the waning seconds?
You have to go all the way back to November of 2008, when Reed kicked a 32 yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the Steelers famous 11-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field. Before that, you have to go back to the 2005 season, when Reed connected on a 40 yarder in the final seconds in another victory over the Chargers.
Both clutch kicks by Skippy, of course, but in each instance, there was still enough time left on the clock for the obligatory "receive the kick-off and keep lateraling the ball until you score" strategy that never works unless you're the Titans.
And that got me to thinking again. When was the last time a Steelers place-kicker lined-up for a field goal with his team trailing in the final seconds and connected at the buzzer?
I went back many years and couldn't find anything before I simply gave up. Pretty lazy on my part, but it illustrates my point a little, anyway. Suisham did something on Sunday that hasn't been done by a Steelers place-kicker in a very long time.
As I alluded to in the beginning of this post, Suisham came to Pittsburgh with a bit of a reputation as a choke artist. He missed a 23 yard field goal in a loss to the Saints in 2009 while playing for the then 3-8 Redskins. The Redskins were winning by a touchdown at the time, there were still two minutes left, and the 'Skins really sucked, so I don't know how much choking was involved on Suisham's part. Suisham was released soon after--I guess because a kicker was the biggest concern for a team that would finish the year 4-12--and caught on with the playoff-bound Cowboys later that season. However, Suisham missed two field goals in a 34-3 blow-out loss to the Vikings in a Divisional Playoff game, and he was sent packing once again.
Suisham was out of football until November of 2010, when the Steelers had decided they had enough of Reed's off-the-field antics (and misses) and parted ways with the long-time fan-favorite.
Suisham was signed and proceeded to connect on 14 of 15 field goals down the stretch for the Super Bowl-bound Steelers. The Steelers then signed Suisham to a four year deal before the start of the 2011 season, and as I said earlier, he struggled a bit with his accuracy--let's just say that anytime Suisham lined up for a field goal last season, Steelers fans weren't exactly feeling confident about the outcome.
During the recently concluded Steelers training camp, some guy named Danny Hrapmann was looking pretty good while kicking field goals in preseason football games, and some Steelers fans said, "Hey, why not give this guy a try?"
Thankfully, the Steelers didn't listen to us. They decided to keep Suisham, and he's started the year 8 for 8 in the field goal department.
Like most kickers, Suisham has bounced around a bit during his career, but the Kickin Canuck (he's from Canada, what else are you going to call him?) seems to have found a home in Pittsburgh. The superstitious types out there probably want to give me a swift kick in the behind for pointing out that Suisham appears to have figured things out, but hey, he's a kicker, and we only really notice those guys when they screw up (or pick fights with the police). Suisham deserves a little recognition for what he did on Sunday, and for what he's done so far in 2012.
Kudos to the Kickin' Canuck!