Long road for Canadian kicker

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

PITTSBURGH — By all accounts, the Steelers-Ravens game figures on being a physical, hard-fought, closely contested affair.

The bookies in Vegas have made the Steelers a three-point favourite which sounds about right given that this season they lost in Baltimore 17-14 back in October and won the rematch at Heinz Field the first week of December 13-10.

So, three points at home sounds just about right.

That may well mean that in the final seconds of Saturday’s game with the score tied, the Steelers will call on Shaun Suisham to boot them through to the AFC championship game.

It is a situation that Suisham, the pride and joy of Wallaceburg, Ont., is eagerly looking forward to.

This season has been the most testing and has the capacity to be the most triumphant of Suisham’s career, one that started when he was signed by the Steelers in April of 2005.

After getting in a few games with Dallas in ’05 and ’06, he was released and ultimately signed with the Redskins and became their field goal kicker for both the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

But Washington dropped him in December of 2009 and since then it has been a series of signings and releases by three different teams but no game action until the Steelers came calling this Nov. 16.

For the past nine seasons, the Steelers had put their faith in Jeff Reed, but this season they called it quits after the veteran kicker missed seven of 22 field goal attempts.

The call finally came for Suisham and he has responded by hitting on 14 of 15 field goal attempts, including being good on eight of nine from 40-49 yards.

“It’s great to be here,” Suisham said Thursday in the Steelers clubhouse. “This is my sixth year now (in the NFL) and it’s the longest I went without playing. It’s difficult being at home, when the games are going on. It’s good to be here that’s for sure.”

He said that as the weeks and months rolled by this fall and he was unemployed, his confidence in his ability never wavered.

“Because you’re not working has never affected my confidence in kicking,” he said. “When you’re not working you do everything you can to prepare your body to be ready for a phone call that usually comes on a Monday. You have your workout on Tuesday and you just cater your week around that and wait for that phone call.

“It’s just the process. It would be a little more deflating if you weren’t getting those phone calls. I knew it was a matter of time for that to happen.”

So, now he has come full circle, signing and performing at a high level with the team that gave him his first break.

“When I came here in 2005 I was so excited. I knew I wasn’t going to make the team but just having the opportunity to get out there in pre-season was the catalyst for me to be where I am today. So, it certainly is a little different being here this time around, being involved with the games and the playoffs now.

“It’s a great place and I’m real happy to be back here.”

He said that the pressure he faces in Pittsburgh, with their rich history of winning and excelling, is the same that he felt with other teams

“Being close to perfection is expected of kickers,” Suisham said. “So, every kick is important. But I can rest easy because I prepare.

“On the field, I’m not worried about missing. On the field, I’m just focused on putting a good foot on the ball and just trusting that I made my preparation and the ball is going to go where I want it to.”

Since 2005, Suisham has done a lot of travelling and worked out with a number of teams. Between the ears, though, is where he’s made the most progress and travelled the farthest.

“You learn a lot of things that I don’t think can be taught than through experience, both positive and negative,” he said. “Where I’m at now, I’m light years from where I was as a rookie. A lot of guys have talent but there’s so much more that goes into it mentally and being able to handle yourself and control yourself that has helped me to become what I would consider being a better kicker.

“I just want to win football games and do what I know how to do to best prepare for the game and I’m going to go out there to do what I can to help the team. So I’m in a lot different place mentally than I used to be. I’m not on the field concerned for my job. I’m on the field concerned about winning the game.”

Chances are he’ll get his shot this Saturday.


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