Not much bothers kicker Jeff Reed. Not Rob Bironas. Not Shaun Suisham. Not even the slippery surface at Heinz Field, the bane of all kickers. He has stood up to them all at various stages of his seven-year career with the Steelers, never flinching, never backing down, though occasionally slipping and sliding on his home turf.
"That's one of those things where you just kind of deal with the hand you've been dealt," Reed said. It might seem ironic to say that Reed, 29, has stood up to the challenge when sometimes he ends up on the seat of his pants. But, despite the elements he has to deal with at home, Reed has become every bit as dependable and rock-solid as the Steelers' top-ranked defense.
After being the NFL's most accurate kicker last season (23 of 25), he has continued that pace in 2008, converting field-goal attempts of 37 and 38 yards in Thursday night's 27-10 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. That improved his season total to 18 of 19 (94.7 percent), his only miss coming in the Nov. 9 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Reed has converted 41 of 44 field goals, a 93.2 percent conversion that leads all NFL kickers.
"When you're kicking here, it mentally wears on you," Reed said. "I never say I'm a head-case because I'm not. That's why I can kick through this stuff. If you're a kicker in this league, you're not ever a head-case."
Coming into the weekend, the Steelers' Jeff Reed is among the most accurate kickers in the NFL with at least 15 field goals made.
Reed's misses weren't just routine attempts, either.
• A 65-yarder in Denver in Week 6 last season that was attempted on the final play of the first half, only because the Steelers were playing in rarefied air, where the ball travels farther.
• A 44-yard field goal against the Miami Dolphins in the muck and goo at Heinz Field last year, the first game played on a new sod surface that became water-logged from heavy rains and a broken tarp. "It was horrendous," Reed said. "It about hit the pylon."
• A 51-yarder into the wind on a squishy field against the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago at home.
Over the years, his accuracy -- heck, his dependability -- has increased, even at Heinz Field.
"Even when it's nice in the preseason, or the first couple games of the season when Pitt plays at 6 p.m. and we play at 1 [p.m. the next day], it's torn up, and that's when it's 90 degrees outside," Reed said. "You slip, you slide, sometimes better than others. Some spots are better than others, like that Miami game last year. My first attempt was horrendous. Thank goodness Ben got sacked on the second one. It was a perfect spot."
Not surprisingly, Reed is even more accurate on the road. Since missing a 41-yard attempt Nov. 28, 2005, in Indianapolis -- in the climate-controlled RCA Dome, no less -- Reed has missed just one field goal away from Heinz Field, and that was the 65-yard attempt in Denver.
Since the miss in Indianapolis three years ago, he has converted 35 of 36 field goals (97.2 percent) on the road, including all seven attempts this season.
Even though he has never been selected to the Pro Bowl, maybe it's time Reed is considered among the best, if not the best, kickers in the NFL.
"It's tough," Reed said. "There are 32 kickers in the NFL and probably at least 100 capable of playing at this level," Reed said. "I have friends who are just as good as me, if not sometimes better. You're like, man, how does he not have a job. And there are some guys you wonder how they keep their jobs, but they're veterans who make big kicks and that's what's important to people."
"That was always coach [Bill] Cowher's saying -- it's tough to get in the league, but it's even tougher to stay."
Reed not only has stayed, he has outlasted training-camp competitions from other young kickers brought in to challenge him. Among the candidates: Bironas, who was brought to training camp in 2004, and Suisham, a strong-legged kicker who was in training camp with the Steelers in 2005.
Bironas eventually signed with the Tennessee Titans and set an NFL record with eight field goals in a game against Houston Oct. 21, 2007. He was selected to the Pro Bowl and named to the All-Pro team last season.
Suisham has kicked for three teams since being cut by the Steelers, but he spent the past 2 1/2 seasons with the Washington Redskins. He has converted 56 of 69 field-goal attempts (81.2 percent) with the Redskins.
"Every time I've had a kicker in camp competing with me, they've made 85 percent of their field goals that I've seen. I know they're capable of kicking. I'm talking about in actual games and practice that I see them.
"[Bironas] was good at the time. That time was trying for me because that was coming off my hip surgery and they didn't know if I would be able to last. He was always consistent and strong-legged. He was a one-upper. If I hit a 50-yarder, he'd go back to 58 yards and say, 'Come back here.' I wouldn't fall into that trap. He's done very well for himself."
So has Reed.