By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Jeff Reed spoke with his teammates before leaving town, including several conversations with his best friend, Pittsburgh Steelers long-snapper Greg Warren.
“He took it, I guess, like anybody would,” Warren said. “He was disappointed, because he wanted to be able to help this team. But we’ve got to do what’s best for the team, and that’s what Coach Tomlin does. He makes those decisions, and we follow.
“(But) Jeff is just taking it one day at a time. He’s going to wait for a call. He’s a great kicker. He’s going to get called at some point. Either this year, at the end of the year, or whenever. But he’s going to be ready and will kick well for somebody. I’m sure of that.”
One thing Reed contended was that the Steelers fans were especially tough on him lately, specifically after he slipped a 26-yarder past the right upright this past Sunday night. Warren had another take on the fan reaction.
“I think the fans were disappointed, and rightfully so,” Warren said. “We played terrible. We know that, but we’re going to do everything we can this week to not have it repeat. … I wouldn’t say that Jeff started off any different this season, but after he missed a few kicks he was disappointed in himself.
“He works so hard to be a perfectionist. So, he wants to go out there and make every kick, and for him to miss a few is disappointing. So, he kept going back to try to adjust and fix things, but sometimes the ball still just doesn’t go your way. That’s just the way it is in this game.”
Punter Daniel Sepulveda, the Steelers holder, noted that the circumstances during Reed’s recent miss were tougher than usual. (Heinz Field) is tough, but that’s our home. That’s where we play, and that’s where we work. I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else. I love playing at home.”
Warren, Sepulveda and the Steelers new place-kicker, Shaun Suisham, already have worked on their timing to ensure a clean, mistake-free operation. And they will return to Heinz Field Thursday. Suisham worked out for the club there Tuesday morning, but he wouldn’t comment on the conditions.
“I was just happy to be out there,” Suisham said, “but … whatever team you’re playing their kicker has to kick on the same field. It’s even for everybody, but I don’t plan on missing any field goals no matter where we play.”
Counting the St. Louis Rams, who cut Suisham in training camp, the Steelers will be his fifth team in six years. And his inconsistency has been well-documented. Last year, the Washington Redskins had a chance to upset the then-undefeated New Orleans Saints, but Suisham shanked a 23-yard attempt that was later dubbed “The Choke” by Skins fans.
Steelers wideout Antwaan Randle El was on that Washington team.
“When he was at Washington, I think he was 18-for-22, but he missed some critical kicks that just didn’t go his way,” Randle El said. “That’s a tough situation. … It was tough, just tough, but that happens. He has to pick up and move on. We were upset. There’s no question, but at the same time we know that didn’t win or lose the game.
“As an offense, we talk about not leaving it up to the kicker. We love him, but if we can we need to put the ball into the end zone and just kick an extra point. So, that was a tough situation, but it happens in football. You’re a team, and you have to move on. Everybody has their job, and we all need to do it. I hated to see Jeff Reed leave, especially under these circumstances.
“It’s tough in the middle of the season, but I guess something other than kicking had to be involved in that deal,” Randle El added. “So, it’s a tough deal, but if we had to get somebody else Suisham was a good pickup.”
Suisham was released and eventually signed with the Dallas Cowboys. He contributed to their playoff meltdown by missing two kicks (both more than 40 yards) in an NFC Divisional loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
“During my career, I’ve bounced around with several teams,” Suisham said. “I haven’t been with just one team, so this is year six now and I’ve really adjusted to it. Bouncing around has been our lives to adjust to new teams and new areas. But I feel comfortable here. It’s a great organization here, and our operation was very smooth for Day 1. So, I look forward to kicking this weekend.
“When Pittsburgh called, I realized that it certainly was a wonderful opportunity for me to come here. (But) when you’re on the outside looking in, you can only work out for a team and hope they choose you. I can’t ask for anything different, though. To end up here with the Pittsburgh Steelers is exactly what I would have wanted.”
After getting cut by the Redskins, the Suishams sold their home in Virginia and moved to Ohio to be closer to his wife’s family. He spent the last 10 weeks off fixing up the house and spending time with his family.
“(But) we lost my mother-in-law two weeks ago,” Suisham said. “She had a heart attack. So, it’s (ironic) how things work out. We were able to take that last few months and spend time with our daughter and my wife’s family at a critical time. That time was very special to me, and I wouldn’t trade it.”
And depending how Suisham works out with the Steelers, he might get to keep that home nearby in Ohio.