There is very little patience in the NFL for mistakes.
Whether it's a coach, a fan or a journalist, if a player messes up in a game, someone will notice it, and change will be demanded.
In the case of a position player, that could mean a trip to the bench. But for your average placekicker, that often means a trip to the unemployment line.
For former Steeler kicker Shaun Suisham, who was released by the team on Friday and retired from the NFL, the early portion of his career taught him about the law of supply and demand when it came to his position.
In-fact, shortly after arriving in Pittsburgh late in the 2010 season as the replacement for long-time veteran Jeff Reed, Suisham said just that in an ESPN article from 2011:
"You see how often changes are made due to performance or injury every year at the kicking spot. And you don't carry backups, so when it does happen, obviously people take notice. I don't know if it happens more at the kicking position or if it's more obvious for the reasons I said. Three months ago, I was out of work. You get used to playing football, that's what you do, and you worked for it every week. When you're out of it, certainly it's uncomfortable when Sundays come around and you're at home."
Suisham was out of work and feeling uncomfortable for most NFL Sundays during the 2010 regular season after making a combined 20 of 24 attempts the year before with both the Redskins and Cowboys. Not bad on the surface. Only problem was, one of Suisham's misses was from less than 30-yards away, and two others were from less than 40. Those misses led to Suisham developing a reputation as a choke-artist, as this message board from 2009 clearly illustrates.
Like a lot of kickers, Suisham, who was initially signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free-agent in 2005, bounced around the NFL for years, trying to find a permanent home.
When Suisham arrived in Pittsburgh in November of 2010, not only was he replacing a very popular player in Reed, he came to town with a field goal conversion rate of 79 percent for his career. While that may have been good in Gary Anderson's time (Anderson made 78.2 percent of his field goals during his 13 years with the Steelers and was considered one of the best kickers of his era), in today's day-and-age, where the top guys routinely make over 90 percent of their kicks, that just wouldn't cut it.
One too many slip-ups down-the-stretch for the Super Bowl-contending Steelers, and Suisham would have undoubtedly been handed yet another pink-slip before the playoffs even arrived.
But Suisham converted 14 of his 15 attempts in 2010, good enough to keep his job for the 2011 season. However, he only converted on 23 of 31 attempts--including a pretty woeful six of 11 between 40-49 yards away. That kind of accuracy wasn't going to keep him employed for very long. (Just ask accomplished veteran Josh Scobee, who came to Pittsburgh via trade last year to replace an injured Suisham, ironically enough, and was out-of-a-job about a month into the 2015 season, after missing four of 10 tries).
Like every other position, kickers actually can improve at their craft, and Suisham did so in a big way, starting in 2012.
From 2012-2014, Suisham converted 87 of 95 field goal attempts (91.5 percent) and was an incredible 30 of 30 between 40-49 yards away.
Sadly, just as he was hitting his stride and seemingly in his prime, Suisham's career was prematurely cut-short due to a "catastrophic" ACL tear in the Hall of Fame Game last August--an injury he has yet to fully heal from.
Now, Chris Boswell, who ultimately replaced Suisham last October after Scobee and Garrett Hartley failed to do so, will be the Steelers kicker moving forward. After arriving in the NFL as an undrafted free-agent in 2014, Boswell didn't develop the reputation as a choke-artist because he was never given a chance to kick before winning a tryout with Pittsburgh. After making 29 of 32 attempts last season, Boswell is simply known as reliable.
If you're a kicker, that's the reputation you want to have right away.
Suisham didn't have that reputation six years ago. In-fact, it was just the opposite.
While his career was cut-short, the fact that he actually stuck around long to even have one speaks volumes.
Shaun Suisham's career probably ended about 150 kicks too soon, but it lasted long enough for him to shed his label as a choke-artist.
For an NFL kicker, that's some major perseverance.