Jeff Reed went off in the Steelers locker room Sunday night moments after his team was throttled by the New England Patriots at Heinz Field. When he was done fragments of his career were found scattered about his locker. Anyone who had heard the outburst and had seen his t-shirt which read "Haters Hate" knew that there was no saving Reed from himself this time.
Reed was officially shown the door on Tuesday by the Steelers in part because of his sudden erratic kicking, but as much for his erratic behavior off of the field. Yes, there were seven misses this season including the high school-ish one Sunday night, but there was also that towel dispenser in New Alexandria, the cops on the South Side, and the torn up limo just to name a few.
The Steelers had the most accurate kicker in the NFL in 2007, 2008, and 2009 which is saying quite something when you play in the Bermuda Triangle of kickers, Heinz Field. Footballs do strange things in the open ended grass field; plug like lawn darts when punted, swirl insanely off line even when well struck and sometimes simply refuse to go through the uprights. For most of his career Reed had the place figured out.
What Reed hadn't figured out was that kickers who miss gimme kicks but not towel dispensers quickly find themselves out of work.
Reed has spent most of 2010 angry that the Steelers handed him the franchise tag and a one year check for $2,483,000 rather than the long term contract that he had demanded. Rather than be thankful to be taking home the largest paycheck of any Steeler kicker in history and kicking to prove a point, Reed suddenly went as erratic on the field has he has been off of it. Short kickoffs are one thing, seven misses another. Reed had set up an explosive situation and Sunday night he lit the match.
Really good kickers are very hard to find in the middle of a season, a fact not lost on the Steelers. But they really had no choice with Reed after he threw Heinz Field, the media and a goodly chunk of Steeler Nation under the bus Sunday night. There is one set of rules for a franchise QB, another for wide receivers (even if they are the Super Bowl MVP) and yet another for kickers. Good kickers are hard to find. Bad kickers can be replaced in a single workout.
To that end the Steelers signed Shaun Suisham Tuesday for the balance of the season. Suisham converted almost 86 percent of his kicks in Washington last season but is only a temporary measure at best.
Somewhere deep down inside there might still be a good kicker lurking within Jeff Reed. But until he kicks the anger to the curb he and we will never know.