If you were a Steelers fan, of all the key players they were missing as they prepared to face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Thursday night in the kickoff to the 2015 regular season, perhaps Shaun Suisham was far down your list.
But how much was center Maurkice Pouncey missed? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked two times in 38 passing attempts and threw for 351 yards, as the line afforded him way more than just above-the-line protection. The absence of Pouncey due to injury and Le'Veon Bell due to a drug-related two game suspension didn't seem to hurt the run game at all, as the line opened up numerous gaping holes and veteran backup DeAngelo Williams looked like he took one huge gulp from the fountain of youth and rushed for 127 yards. This isn't to say Bell (maybe the most dynamic offensive weapon in the NFL right now) wouldn't have done better than what Williams was able to provide, but the veteran back's production certainly was more than good enough to win a football game. It's hard to say just what receiver Martavis Bryant, serving a four-game suspension for a positive drug test, could have given the team. Bryant's replacement, Darrius Heyward-Bey, caught four passes for 58 years--including a 43-yard grab in the first half--and failed to keep his right toe off the chalk as he went to the turf to catch what would have a 26-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger with seconds remaining in the first half. Would Bryant have been able to make a better play there? It's the ultimate guess to even try and answer that.
However, while this is just a guess, it is a rather educated one to say that, after Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on an 11-yard touchdown pass with two-seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Steelers may have been in position to go for two-points and tie the game if Shaun Suisham was their kicker and not on the sidelines watching thanks to a torn ACL he suffered in the first preseason game.
It's an educated guess, because Suisham made his last 40 field goal attempts from between 40-49 yards away dating back to the 2012 season. Scobee, on the other hand, is 1 of 3 for the Steelers--including misses from 44 and 46 yards away in his debut, Thursday night.
In defense of Scobee, who Pittsburgh acquired in a trade with the Jaguars on August 31 following a hamstring injury suffered by Garrett Hartley just two days before, the conditions in Foxborough weren't exactly ideal (a fair amount of wind and, later, a lot of rain), but in defense of critical analysis, Suisham converted on 92.6 percent of his field goals over his last three years (many coming at the very tough on kickers Heinz field). Meanwhile, Scobee missed almost as many field goals in 2014 (six) as Suisham missed over a three-year span (seven).
Does this mean Scobee was a poor acquisition and that he'll be the placekicking equivalent of Paul Ernster and Mitch Berger, who teamed up to be awful replacements for injured punter Daniel Sepulveda in 2008? No, Scobee should be a fine enough replacement over a 16-week span.
But when you boil things down to just one game, one has to wonder just how differently Week 1 may have turned out for the Steelers had Shaun Suisham been healthy and in the line-up.