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2013 Steelers position preview: Specialists

Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham is coming off a career year, and Drew Butler's one year wasn't enough for the Steelers to bring in a veteran former Pro Bowl punter to compete for the starting job.

Justin K. Aller

Shaun Suisham is a kicker.

His career can go from the doghouse to the penthouse with one fell swoop of his leg. In 2012, that's pretty much what happened.

Suisham was a liability in 2011, laying down a subpar 23-for-31 on the season. There was talk about his removal, and eating the balance of his contract, but the Steelers elected to keep him.

He rewarded them with one of the best seasons kicking at Heinz Field since the stadium opened in 2001. In fact, he almost was perfect from the notoriously poor kicking environment there, if not for a block and a poorly made decision to let him rip from 51 yards against Cincinnati in Week 16.

There have only been five successful kicks from 50 yards or longer in the history of Heinz Field. Former Steelers K Jeff Reed has two of them.

Suisham doesn't have any, and even with an outstanding regular season just slightly in his rear-view mirror, there doesn't seem to be adequate justification for having him attempt such a kick.

He missed, the Steelers lost and the season ended after that brutally physical defensive showdown with the Bengals. The loss can't be pinned on Suisham. In fact, if his three misses last season were the result of a block and two from over 50 yards, fans can be excited about what he'll bring into 2013.

Unless he falls back to the doghouse, of course. Considering Steelers kickers with experience are almost always going to outperform their visiting counterparts in Pittsburgh game-to-game, another 16 kicks at home last year will only make him better.

If only the same can be said for the Steelers' revolving punter philosophy over the last few years.

In the time since the Steelers traded up to the fourth round to snare Dan Sepulveda in 2007, they've had five different punters - Sepulveda, Mitch Berger, Paul Ernster, Jeremy Kapinos and Drew Butler.

Butler, a rookie in 2012, beat out the injured Kapinos for the spot, and he'll be challenged by veteran Brian Moorman this training camp.

The advantage has to go to Moorman, who's career stats are fairly solid, especially for a 12-year veteran. The Steelers didn't get much from Butler in 2012, and bringing in competition was a foregone conclusion this offseason.

Moorman was something of a dark horse to pace Butler for the job, though. Injuries derailed his once Pro Bowl-level career, but, if healthy, he has to be considered the favorite.

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