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Pittsburgh Steelers Gary Anderson: Placekickers are people too

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Pittsburgh Steelers legendary running back Jerome Bettis will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a few short weeks. Will the next Hall of Fame inductee from the Black & Gold be Gary Anderson?

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How is it possible that a four-time Pro Bowler, member of  NFL All-Decade Teams for both the 80s and 90s, and the second all-time scorer in NFL history isn't already in the Hall of Fame? That last stat gives away the answer. It's possible to make those sorts of contributions and be snubbed if you are a placekicker.

The man who scored 2,434 points during his career, Gary Anderson, placekicker for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1982-1994. Odds are stacked against Anderson, not because of his contributions to his teams and NFL, but because of his position. The only pure placekicker in the Hall of Fame is Jan Stenerud (the other two, George Banda and Lou Groza had other roles on their teams).

Ranked 11th for most consecutive NFL at 234 games, Anderson was the first placekicker with a perfect regular season in 1998, making every extra point and every field goal. He revolutionized his position with unprecedented accuracy and consistency, for which he earned his nickname "Mr. Automatic."

Is Anderson's legacy tainted by his choked-under-pressure blunder in the 1998 NFC Champtionship? Playing for the Vikings, Anderson missed a relatively routine 38-yard field goal in the NFC championship game against the Falcons. A subsequent Falcons touchdown also contributed to the loss, but while accuracy and consistency are important, there is something to be said for delivering when it counts.

A loss that is more the fault of the Vikings defense than Anderson is probably not the reason Anderson has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. More probable is a bias against special teams players in the NFL. The top twenty scoring leaders are all kickers with more than 1,500 points.

While there are certainly flashier positions on the roster, kickers make important contributions. Like long snappers and punters, kickers generally are on the radar when they mess up (unless you are Mark Moseley and end up on the radar by being league MVP.)

It is time to recognize Anderson for what he did best- perform his job with accuracy and consistency. Hopefully 2016 will be his year.