Kicking Rocks: Should The Steelers Part Ways With Jeff Reed?

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Kicking Rocks: Should The Steelers Part Ways With Jeff Reed?
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Grumblings around Steeler Nation show some dismay about Jeff Reed. Some fans cite Reed’s legal problems while others complain about his proficiency (or lack thereof) on kickoffs.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to most Steeler fans that Jeff Reed has a reputation for being a party animal. All that one has to do to find supporting evidence of Reed’s propensity to party hard, is to type his name into any internet search engine.

Stories about his late night habits will soon flood the computer screen. Some of the tales are very entertaining.

Reed has had two run-ins with the law relating to off-field incidents of disorderly conduct.

The first incident was days after Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XLIII win. He was in the men’s room at a Sheetz gas station in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania when he became dismayed that the restroom was out of paper towels to dry his hands.

He reportedly damaged the paper towel dispenser during a temper tantrum. Reed plead guilty to the charges of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct receiving a $543.50 fine, which included $210 in restitution to the store.

His fine from the NFL for violating the Personal Conduct Policy—of $10,000— was not as lenient.

Eight months later, Reed was cited for public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, simple assault, and resisting arrest. Prior to the trouble with police, Jeff Reed and Matt Spaeth were celebrating a win over the Cleveland Browns.

Apparently, police officers responding to an unrelated call in the area witnessed Spaeth urinating next to a white SUV in a parking lot near a Pittsburgh bar. When Police approached Spaeth, Jeff Reed exited the white SUV and was allegedly very belligerent. Reed had to be placed in handcuffs.

In March 2010, five months after the second incident, the simple assault and resisting arrest charges were dropped by a judge. The judge told Reed that the other two charges would be dropped if he performed 40 hours of community service.

A month later, the remaining charges were dropped as a result of Reed’s compliance with the prescribed community service.

The NFL ordered Reed to undergo a behavioral evaluation as a result of the second incident. It does not appear that the NFL fined Reed a sum of money, as it did for the first incident.

Another issue of contention for some fans, is Reed’s contract situation. His contract expired at the end of last season. Initially it looked as if the Steelers were going to use the franchise tag on Casey Hampton, whose contract also expired at the conclusion of last season.

However, the Steelers worked out a long-term deal with Hampton prior to the onset of the NFL’s free agent signing period, freeing up the franchise tag to be used on Reed.

The franchise tag is used to prevent a player from becoming an unrestricted free agent if the team cannot come to an agreement on a long term contract with a player. Each team may use the franchise tag on one player each season, if the team chooses to do so. The tag commits the player to the team for the upcoming season and pays the player the average of the top five salaries in the league at his position.

Jeff Reed will earn $2,814,000 under the franchise tag this season, a handsome salary for a kicker. However, Reed has publicly expressed his dismay about not receiving a long-term deal.

Pittsburgh was trying to negotiate a new deal for Reed when Willie Colon had to be placed on the injured reserve list. To replace Colon, the Steelers signed Flozell Adams, a 12-year veteran who had been cut by Dallas. Nonetheless, Reed is unhappy with his contract situation.

Another common complaint is Jeff’s leg strength, or lack thereof. He doesn’t have the kicking range that some other NFL kickers have, especially on kickoffs. As a result, the Steelers have tried punter, Daniel Sepulveda, on kickoffs this preseason.

In reaction to the move, Reed had this to say:

"I've been playing football since my 12th-grade year in high school and I've never not kicked off.”

"It's one of those situations where, in my eyes, I'm being fired."

Many fans are calling for Reed to be released at the end of the season for one reason or another.

After Reed’s second legal faux pas, Ron Cook, a columnist for the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,” equated Reed to Mike Vanderjagt whom Peyton Manning once dubbed the idiot-kicker, after Vanderjagt made disparaging remarks about Manning while the two were teammates in Indianapolis.

Cook wrote, “Reed should feel lucky if he is not suspended. He could get a game for sheer stupidity, if nothing else. For putting himself in a position where he has to defend himself against these kinds of charges.”

Much of Pittsburgh and Steeler Nation agrees with Ron Cook.

Is Jeff Reed immature for a 31-year old man? Yes. His two legal incidents and the numerous tales of his excessive partying illustrate that. It is very possible that he has an alcohol problem and should seek help if that is the case.

Reed has not been a good role model. However, his off-field issues are dwarfed by those of Ben Roethlisberger who, while three years younger than Reed, is equally immature and has shown poorer judgment.

Each season, a litany of charges are brought against NFL players.

Jim Brown was charged with rape twice: once in 1965 and again in 1985. He also had charges dropped in 1968 after he allegedly threw his fiancé off of a balcony.

Among Michael Irvin’s greatest hits is a plea of no contest for cocaine possession in 1996.

Rae Carruth was convicted for the 1999 murder of Cherica Adams who was 7 months pregnant with his child.

In 2000, Ray Lewis was charged with murder, but plead guilty to obstruction of justice in a plea deal.

In 2003, Steve McNair was charged with DUI and possession of a 9mm handgun.

Just last year, Donte Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian with his vehicle while legally drunk.

As one can imagine, this list could continue for days. However, the actions of other athletes do not excuse Jeff Reed’s behavior and poor judgment. Nevertheless, being mindful of some of the more severe legal problems that football players have faced helps keep Reed’s behavior in perspective.

Jeff Reed is not a bad guy. He is perhaps misguided, but he is not a bad guy.

It’s hard to feel sorry for a guy that will earn more money this season than most Americans will earn during their entire life. However, it’s not the amount of money that Reed is complaining about. He wants a long term deal. A long term deal would most certainly mean a pay cut for this season, but would offer Reed a sense of job security.

Also, he seems to feel slighted because he was under the impression that the Steelers were going to get a long term deal for him. It’s not that the Steelers were dishonest to Reed; the team legitimately wanted to get a deal done. However, Colon’s injury and Flozell Adams’ subsequent signing put a huge damper on the possibility of working out a deal with Reed.

Jeff Reed’s displeasure of being relieved of kickoff duties is a result of being a competitive guy, as all athletes are. 

Reed performed kick off duties for 7 years prior to last season without much complaint from Steeler Nation. It wasn’t until the coverage unit had a terrible season that the rumblings of complaint began about Reed’s ability to kickoff.

Daniel Sepulveda does appear to be better suited to handle the kickoff duties. However, Jeff Reed’s shallow kicks were not the only contributing factor to the Steelers coverage woes last season; Pittsburgh’s special teams ranked 30th in kickoff coverage and 24th in punt coverage. The coverage units, as a whole, performed far below expectations.

Jeff Reed is currently the ninth most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history at 83.3%. Since 2007, he has hit a league best 88.5% of attempts. These are impressive numbers considering he is an outdoor kicker that has to compensate for wind direction and speed.

The winds in Heinz Field are swirling and unpredictable. Other kickers have struggled with accuracy in Pittsburgh.

Kris Brown was released by the Steelers after three seasons because of a dismal 68.2% field goal accuracy rating for the 2001 season. Houston signed him in 2002. For eight seasons, Brown has been a solid kicker for the Texans with the exception of last year.

Jeff Reed is a flawed man. His shortcomings are many, as is the case with everyone.

If Steelers fans expect their kicker to be a great role model, Jeff Reed should be cut at the end of this season. However, the cuts shouldn’t stop there. If being a positive role model is the first and foremost quality that Steelers fans are searching for in their players, then Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison need to be cut too.

Historically, the Steelers have given some of their more talented players a longer leash than the back-ups. Cedrick Wilson and James Harrison were both charged with domestic violence in a short window of time; yet, only Wilson, a back-up wide receiver, was released.

Santonio Holmes was released by the Steelers, but only after four disciplinary problems including two domestic violence incidents, possessing marijuana, and throwing a glass at a woman in a night club. For good measure, he failed a drug test, resulting in a four-game suspension to start the upcoming season.

The precedent seems to indicate that expendable players will be released immediately whereas starters will be given a second chance, and in some cases, multiple chances. If Jeff Reed is truly expendable, let him become a free agent.

However, if the Steelers want a reliable kicker, Jeff Reed must be re-signed before he leaves as an unrestricted free agent. He is the only kicker since Heinz Field opened in 2001 that has achieved any amount of consistency and accuracy on field goals. For all of his problems he has come through for the Steelers time and time again.

Keep his shortcomings in perspective. He deserves a contract extension.

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