Whoever said kickers are not football players never met Shaun Suisham.
He may play the role of a place kicker in the National Football League for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his mentality is more like a linebacker. It was that mentality that led him to making a tackle on a kickoff to start the 2nd half that has led to a season ending injury. Suisham tore his ACL on the 2nd half kickoff of the Hall of Fame game vs Minnesota. An MRI confirmed that on Monday, and will force him to be out for the 2015 season,
The Steeler will hold kicker workouts Tuesday to replace Suisham and the kickers expected to attend include Alex Henery, Jay Feely and Garrett Hartley. The 33-year-old Suisham has been Pittsburgh's everyday kicker since 2010 and signed a four-year deal last August. The team felt they had secured that spot for some time, but forgot one thing - a backup plan in case of injury.
What other reason would Mike Tomlin have needed to not have some extra leg in camp like so many times before? With so many regulars sitting out this game, why leave your kicker vulnerable for potential injury? There had to be countless legs willing to give five to six weeks of their life up just to have a chance to start building a resume for potential employment with the shield.
You can blame the kicker all you want for playing 'football' but the bottom line is this injury falls on the shoulders of the head coach and not being prepared to have an extra leg on the roster for a few weeks. There was no excuse for it. Given you had this fifth game on the schedule and knowing the vast majority of your regulars would not see action, the easy thing to do would have some rookie kicker come in for a month to take some of that pressure off Suisham from seeing meaningless game action where injuries like this can, and do, happen.
The numbers show that most of the kickers in the NFL are pretty good at making extra points and field goals. 26 of the leagues kickers last season connected on 80-percent or better of their field goal attempts. Suisham was tied for 5th at 90.6-percent of those.
Do you think having that 2nd leg would have been worth the investment even if for just a month?
Yes, I know this is very reactionary and after the fact, but if your going to protect an investment you just signed to a four-year extension last season, then why not go that extra mile? Now this team is faced with a very murky future at a position that inside Heinz Field requires precision and skill. Suisham seemed to be able to tame the Ohio river monsters that swirl and sway come December and January.
Now the search begins for a replacement for Suisham and, like many scenarios of this nature, the one who ends up with the job will still have a long way to go in filling the shoes of the guy who showed why it was his in the first place. Winning the AFC North just got a bit harder for the black and gold and it all could have been avoided with some additional planning.
John Phillips is the author of this article. He works for CBS Radio Pittsburgh as a reporter & sports anchor for 93.7 The Fan and News Radio 1020 KDKA. You can follow JP on Twitter @PGHJohnPhillips