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Steelers should kick the tires on more kickers heading into 2012

The Pittsburgh Steelers had what most pundits and fans alike believe was one of the best drafts of the 2012 National Football League selection process but if there was any particular area that they may have passed on it was at the position of place kicker. I’m not suggesting the Steelers should have drafted one, but the fact they seem ‘content’ with current kicker Shaun Suisham is a little disconcerting to this Steelers’ fan.

When Suisham took over for former kicker Jeff Reed during the 2010 season, he did pretty much everything that was asked of him. Through the regular season he was perfect on extra points and only missed one of 15 field goal attempts. There did however, seem to be an issue or two, especially with kicks outside of 45 yards.

In the NFL, you need consistency from your kicker, but more now than ever you also need a guy who can bang home a 52-yard field goal when needed. I don’t want to make this out to be easy, but more and more kickers are making 50+ yarders with relative ease these days.

Sadly, what most Steelers’ fans recall from Suisham in the 2010 season was his horrendous field goal attempt in Super Bowl XLV against Green Bay. Whether or not the try should have even been attempted by head coach Mike Tomlin is a moot point now, but either way the kick had absolutely no chance from the moment it left his foot.

In his first full season with the Steelers, Suisham was again perfect on his PAT’s but his field goal accuracy slipped as he was 23 of 31. Ask any fan though and they’ll tell you that anytime Suisham lined up for anything outside of 40 yards it was like watching your kid ride a bike for the first time. Chances are they’ll get it, but not without some anxiety and scrapes along the way.

Many suggested the Steelers should look at some kickers in the draft or at least through free agency. Finally, it appears they have some competition for Suisham but I’m certainly not going to do cartwheels.  Journeyman kicker Dave Rayner was brought in recently and brings with him a list of prior employers. Drafted by Indianapolis in 2005 out of Michigan State, Rayner has had stints with Green Bay, Kansas City, San Diego, Cincinnati, Detroit, Buffalo and Oakland. If this were baseball, he’d be a relief pitcher with that track record.

Rayner provides a strong leg, but he doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence either. Throw in the fact that he could potentially be kicking in the toughest stadium in the league to do so in and I lose even more confidence in him being here in September.

My guess is that the Steelers will bring in more than just Rayner as the summer progresses because there are going to be plenty of free agent kickers available. Suisham has been a fairly reliable guy and has shown the ability to kick well at Heinz Field, but can we do better is the ultimate question.

Fans often dismiss the kicking position and then, when the game is lost because of him, they wonder why more wasn’t done to get a guy in the can make long or pressure-packed kicks. Ask Baltimore Ravens’ fans about kickers…

Stay tuned all summer long because I believe the job of kicker will be wide open until late in training camp.

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