Steelers cut Reed, sign Canadian Suisham
For eight years, the Pittsburgh Steelers tolerated Jeff Reed's off-field incidents and had no issues with his platinum-dyed hair and quirkiness.
What they couldn't forgive were his misses.
Reed, who began the season as one of the 10 most accurate kickers in NFL history but has been erratic all season, was cut Tuesday and replaced by Canadian kicker Shaun Suisham.
Suisham was signed immediately after working out at Heinz Field, where Reed blamed the slippery, unstable turf for his 26-yard miss against the Patriots on Sunday.
"It's unlike other positions where you can simply bench someone and go to their backup," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "There's only one kicker on a football team, so you don't make a decision lightly when you have to make a move. We're very respectful of the cumulative body of work by Jeff here, but at this time we felt it was appropriate to make a change."
The Steelers won two Super Bowls with Reed, who was 8-for-8 during the 2005 and 2008 playoffs. He had one of his best seasons last year, going 27-for-31, but has struggled since, missing twice during a 15-9, season-opening overtime victory over Atlanta.
Reed has missed seven of 22 attempts overall, including all four between the 40- and 49-yard lines. He was 4-for-9 at Heinz Field, where swirling winds and mushy grass make kicking difficult.
His biggest misses came from 49 and 45 yards when the Steelers (6-3) lost 17-14 to rival Baltimore (6-3) in a potentially pivotal AFC North game on Oct. 3.
The 31-year-old Reed already has nearly as many misses this season as he did in 2008 and 2009 combined.
"Some big kicks, I've missed some important kicks," Reed said following the Steelers' 39-26 loss to New England. "It's sports. It's not an excuse, but it's life. You can't sit back and say, man, you've been an 85 per cent [kicker] and now you're whatever percentage. I've lost track. It hurts me that I don't help this team get points."
Rather than giving Reed the multi-year contract he wanted, the Steelers designated him as their franchise player last off-season and signed him to a one-year, $2.8-million US contract — the average salary for the top five players at his position.
Following his chip-shot miss against the Patriots, Reed partly blamed Heinz Field's unstable grass for his erratic season. Stadium workers were seen after the game tromping down pieces of turf that had come loose.
"If you've played in any kind of sports in your life, you realize that what we play on is not very good turf," said Reed, who signed with Pittsburgh following a mid-season tryout in 2002.
Reed also criticized some fans for being overly critical.
Suisham, a 28-year-old native of Wallaceburg, Ont., kicked at Bowling Green before beginning his NFL career with Dallas in 2005. He became the Redskins' kicker late in the 2006 season and held the job throughout 2007 and 2008.
Suisham was a combined 20-for-24 in 2009, going 18-for-21 with Washington, but had 10 misses in 36 attempts in 2008. He was in the Steelers' camp in 2005, but was cut.
"He's no stranger to the elements and things that are critical components of kicking for us," Tomlin said.
The Steelers did not cite Reed's multiple off-field incidents for figuring into the decision to release him.
Reed was ordered last year by the NFL to undergo an evaluation after he became involved in an alcohol-related dispute with Pittsburgh police following a home game in October. The evaluation was similar to that completed by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Reed was cleared of all charges in that case after completing 40 hours of community service with the Salvation Army. He also paid a fine of $543.50 in 2009 after police near Pittsburgh accused him of damaging a paper towel dispenser and harassing employees at a convenience store, a few weeks after the Steelers beat Arizona in the Super Bowl.
Reed held the job longer than any Steelers' kicker since Gary Anderson (1982-94) and was the second-most accurate in team history, ranking 12th in NFL history with an 81.9 per cent accuracy rate (204-for-249). Norm Johnson was 105-for-127 (82.7 per cent) with Pittsburgh from 1995-98.