Suisham, Steelers count their blessings


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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Monday, Nov. 1, started like any other day for Shaun Suisham. He got up at his home in Greenville, Ohio, made sure things were cool with his wife, Erin, and baby daughter, Sienna, had a little breakfast and probably checked the newspaper to see which NFL kickers had missed field goals the day before.

Hey, it's what you do when you're unemployed and looking for a kicking job in the league.

Then, the telephone call came.

Suisham's mother-in-law, Gloria Croley, died of a massive heart attack that morning as she was getting ready to go to work. She had just turned 60 Oct. 24.

"It was hard to believe," Suisham said. "We had just had a big party for her."

It still hurts Suisham to talk about it.

"It's amazing what can happen in a month," he said. "I really didn't envision myself being here today with the Pittsburgh Steelers."

Certainly, not kicking four long field goals to beat the Buffalo Bills, 19-16, in overtime Sunday.

Wow, what a first impression!

"It's so awesome what he did," said Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda, who is the holder for Suisham's field-goal attempts.

"He's just happy to have another shot, happy to be back in the league. His energy and enthusiasm are unbelievable. He deserved this."

Suisham, signed Nov. 16 to replace the popular and, until this season, incredibly productive Jeff Reed, made his Steelers' debut against the Oakland Raiders Nov. 21, but did nothing more than kick off and make five extra points. The challenge was a bit bigger on this cold, windy day at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a game the Steelers had to have to hang with the Baltimore Ravens on top of the AFC North Division. Suisham made 45- and 46-yard field goals in the second quarter to give the Steelers a 13-0 halftime lead, hit a 48-yarder for a 16-13 lead in the fourth quarter, then was good from 41 yards in overtime.

You should have seen Suisham's new teammates swarm him after the game. Clearly, the Steelers knew how important this game was.

"Yeah, that was a lot of fun," Suisham said, grinning.

A deeply religious man, Suisham, 29, believes in God's will. He had been out of work all season and said he "was going to visit [retirement from the NFL]" after this season. Then, Reed missed a late 46-yard field goal at Cincinnati Nov. 8 that forced the Steelers to sweat out a 27-21 win. The next week, he missed from 26 yards in a loss to the New England Patriots. That prompted Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to make a change that had Pittsburgh buzzing for a week. Reed had been a splendid kicker for most of nine seasons and helped the team win two Super Bowls.

You might say Suisham had a big kicking shoe to fill.

"How could I [worry about that]?" he asked. "I mean, I wouldn't be any better for this football team if I worried about it.

"When I came in here in 2005 to [Steelers] training camp, Jeff was great to me. I've always remembered that and certainly appreciate it. But you just take the opportunities when you get them. To be with a new team and to come through for them is special."

Suisham was released by the Washington Redskins last December after missing a 23-yard field goal late in an overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints. He kicked for the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs but missed from 48 and 49 yards in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He wasn't re-signed by the Cowboys and had unsuccessful tryouts this summer with the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams.

No, Suisham probably didn't envision being with the Steelers Sunday.

Did I mention he believes in God's will?

After the 2009 season, Suisham sold his house in Virginia and moved to Greenville so his wife could be close to her family. For a time, they lived with Harold and Gloria Croley before moving into their new house in March.

"In one way, I hated being out of work," Suisham said. "But in another way, it was a blessing. We ended up back in Ohio for a reason. My wife got to spend the most time with her mother since she was in high school. My daughter got to be around her grandparents. [Gloria] was such a great grandmother ...

"The way things worked out, I wouldn't change anything."

Nor would Tomlin.

"How 'bout Shaun banging field goals for us?" he gushed.

And how 'bout this for -- pardon the poor pun -- a kicker to the Suisham story?

"He's now," Tomlin said, "a Steeler."


Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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