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Old 11-21-2010, 09:46 AM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Reed's release might have been message to Steelers

Reed's release might have been message to Steelers
John Dudley

Some football moves are easy to explain.

When the Atlanta Falcons drafted Matt Ryan to replace Joey Harrington (career passer rating: 69.4), they were replacing a marginal player with a better one.

Obvious talent upgrade.

And then there was last week, when the Pittsburgh Steelers ditched veteran kicker Jeff Reed and, after a hastily staged tryout, replaced him with ... Shaun Suisham?

Talent upgrade?

I'm assuming Morten Anderson couldn't find his kicking shoe and Matt Bahr couldn't find a flight to Pittsburgh on short notice.

Reed entered the season having made 81.9 percent of his career field-goal attempts.

He has kicked in two Super Bowls and appeared in the playoffs five times. He hasn't missed a postseason field goal since 2002 and is 6-for-6 on playoff attempts of 40 yards or longer since 2004.

Suisham entered the season with a career percentage of 79.1, is 1-for-3 from outside 40 yards in the postseason and never has kicked in a Super Bowl or faced a pressure kick in the playoffs.

It's worth noting that Suisham managed to remain unemployed for the first 10 weeks of a season in which New England wide receiver Wes Welker and Detroit rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Su have attempted extra points.

While Reed had struggled lately, missing seven times in nine games, it's not as if he had been in steady decline.

From 2007-2009, he made 88.5 percent of his kicks and posted three of the four most accurate seasons of his career.

We can assume Reed is no longer a Steeler because he missed some big kicks this season, including attempts from 45 and 49 yards in a 17-14 loss to Baltimore. And that's pretty much the reason coach Mike Tomlin gave in announcing the move last week.

We can also assume Reed's inner child played a role, even though Tomlin wouldn't go there.

The general attitude among NFL teams is that kickers should be seen and not heard, which is why Mike Vanderjagt, despite converting nearly 87 percent of his career attempts, wasn't beyond being referred to by Peyton Manning as "our idiot kicker" at the 2003 Pro Bowl.

Reed's list of transgressions include two brushes with police, including a now-infamous incident in which he ripped a towel dispenser from its moorings in a rest room at Sheetz, some remarks last summer about life not being fair after the Steelers stuck him with their franchise tag--- and an accompanying $2.8 million salary this season -- and some misguided criticism last Sunday about obnoxious Steelers fans and the ruinous condition of the playing surface at Heinz Pasture.

Assuming you're not the quarterback, that sort of public embarrassment is more than enough to get you a ticket out of Pittsburgh, so it should come as no surprise that Reed is gone.

But what if the move is about more than missed kicks and stupidity?

What if Tomlin is sending a message by cutting Reed, perhaps the most expendable player on the roster considering his ongoing slump and the fact that there was almost no chance he would be re-signed next season?

What if this is intended to be a jolt for a team that, as in 2009, started 6-2, then took an unexpected home loss?

Last season, that third loss -- to Cincinnati -- triggered a five-game slide that cost the Steelers a playoff spot. Two irreplaceable veterans, safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Aaron Smith, missed much of the season with injuries.

Loss No. 3 this season came against New England, which had just been embarrassed in Cleveland but strolled into Heinz Field and throttled the Steelers, who are without two irreplaceable veterans, Smith and tackle Max Starks.

Last year's losing streak included a 27-24 home loss to the Oakland Raiders, who return to Pittsburgh today in what amounts to a striking bit of dj vu.

What if Tomlin, fearing a repeat of the indifference that killed the Steelers' playoff hopes last year, is trying to ward off an encore by demonstrating that practically no one is beyond the reach of the waiver wire?

Only Tomlin knows. And he's not saying.
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