I often imagine what it must be like in a losing football team's locker room after the placekicker misses a last second field goal. If that locker room includes an angry linebacker such as Jack Lambert, Greg Lloyd or James Harrison, I can picture that kicker really being given the business as he repeatedly gets dunked in a hot tub.
Football history is filled with big, tough football players telling tales of the times they put it all on the line, sacrificing their blood, sweat, tears and the solidity of their bones, trying to win a game, only to lose after some shrimpy little kicker choked with everything on the line.
This past Sunday, in the Steelers 21-18 loss in Oakland, many big, tough football players could directly blame kicker Shaun Suisham for the loss. After all, Pittsburgh lost by three, and Suisham missed field goals of 32 and 34 yards away. To quote head coach Mike Tomlin in the post-game press conference:
"We lost by three. We missed two very makeable field goals."
Forget the two picks by Ben Roethlisberger, the drops by Antonio Brown, the blocked punt, and the 93 yard touchdown run by Terrelle Pryor on the first play from scrimmage. If you really wanted to blame Suisham for Sunday's loss, you would be justified.
To Tomlin's credit, he did go on to state that there were many reasons why Pittsburgh lost to the Raiders:
"There were many instances you can point to that would have put us in position to win this game, not just in the field goal area."
But again, Suisham has to share in the blame. While his misses didn't come at the end of the game, if he had made even one of those kicks, the outcome may have been different.
However, Suisham certainly deserved a mulligan or two for what he's done for his team over the past season and a half.
And that brings me back to those big, tough football players who love to get on the kicker when he loses a football game. I wonder if any of them go up to him and shake his hand when he carries the team for weeks at a time.
The reason I ask is because the Steelers have scored a measly 125 points in seven games, and Suisham, all 205 pounds of him, has contributed 45 of those points via field goals, alone.
Suisham was on a massive roll over the previous 22 games, prior to Sunday's misses in Oakland. He made 42 of 45 field goals since the start of the 2012 season, and the only one he missed from inside 50 yards came after a bad snap. Place kickers are just like any other football player, they're imperfect, and it was just a matter of time before Suisham missed a field goal; it just so happened to be in a game in-which Pittsburgh lost by three points.
Instead of relying on a place-kicker to carry the scoring for a third consecutive week, another touchdown or two by the offense would have helped the Steelers cause on Sunday. But, unlike Suisham, the offense has been anything but reliable in 2013. Through seven weeks, the Steelers have scored 11 touchdowns--Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes in Week 1--and they've only scored one touchdown in five of the seven games they've played this season.
During Suisham's run of excellence that started in Week 1 of 2012, the Steelers have only scored 30 points in a game once. This season, Pittsburgh has scored less than 20 points five times.
You can blame Suisham for Sunday's loss if you want, but the NFL places a higher point-value on touchdowns for a reason.
If some of those big, tough football players that play for the Steelers don't want a kicker deciding the game, they need to start leaving some of their blood, sweat and tears in the end zone more often.
Finally, going back to Week 1 of 2012, Shaun Suisham has tallied 173 points. The dozens of other Steelers who have been eligible to score points in that same time frame have contributed with 288 points.
That's a lot of weight to put on the shoulders of a shrimpy little kicker.