The Steelers released their franchise player, one of football's best kickers, because he apparently stubbed their toe.
Coach Mike Tomlin informed Jeff Reed by telephone Tuesday morning, then declined to give specifics why he released the Steelers' No. 2 all-time leading scorer, but it could not have been solely because he missed a few kicks this season.
It cannot be that because the kicker they signed to replace him, Shaun Suisham, cannot match Reed's statistics and carries a reputation for not getting the job done in the clutch. A kick by Suisham last Dec. 6 is known by Washington Redskins fans as "The Choke" because he missed a 23-yard field goal with 1:56 left as Washington wound up losing to New Orleans in overtime, 33-30.
The Redskins cut him two days later. The Cowboys signed him, and, in a playoff game against Minnesota, Suisham missed two of his three kicks, from 48 and 49 yards in a Dallas loss and the Cowboys did not re-sign him.
Since the Steelers cut Suisham after he spent his first NFL training camp with them in 2005, he has been with the Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, the Redskins, back to the Cowboys, to the Cleveland Browns for one month before camp this summer, and to the St. Louis Rams, who cut him after four days in August. He was out of work until the Steelers signed him to a one-year contract Tuesday after he kicked for them at Heinz Field.
"We like his resume," Tomlin said. "We like how he performed today. He's been here before. I think he was in camp here in '05. He's a veteran guy. He's no stranger to NFL competition."
Suisham has a career success rate of 79.1 percent (87 of 110) and is relatively strong on kickoffs. Reed's career success is 81.9 percent, including his 15 of 22 this season -- one from 55 banged off the upright, he missed two others from 51 and 49, yet he made another from 52 in Heinz Field and he kicked one from 53 (tying his career long) in Cincinnati, a game in which many point to his missed 46-yarder for not sealing a game the Steelers ultimately won.
Reed has been known for clutch kicks throughout his nine-year career, all with the Steelers. He even was better in the postseason. He made 16 of his 18 field-goal tries in 12 postseason games, making every one since 2004 after missing two (3 of 5) as a rookie in '02.
So, it cannot be his kicking that prompted his ouster. If that were the case, the Steelers would have released him after his second season, when he missed nine kicks (23 of 32). It must be something else, it must be something he said, such as:
"If you're not perfect in this city, man, then you're going to hear about it. It's been like that for nine years, and why would they stop now?"
"I'm not going to make excuses. If you've played any kind of sports in your life, you realize that what we play on is not very good turf. It happens."
Again, Tomlin declined to address those comments by Reed or ones he made this summer when he called the Steelers liars for not fulfilling a promise on his contract, which was $2.8 million as their franchise player, $1 million of which they still owe him no matter what he earns from another team, unless he is claimed off waivers. He also had a few minor tiffs with the law, one not much more than a traffic ticket.
"We just looked at the cumulative body of work and where we are and how we move forward," Tomlin said. "We felt like at this time it justified a change."
Suisham comes in with a clean slate in many respects. He has not missed a kick for the Steelers, he has not bashed their fans nor Heinz Field nor the Rooneys. He also does not know the intricacies of kicking in the notorious Heinz Field winds, nor on its sloppy field.
Reed went on waivers Tuesday with 31 teams getting an opportunity to claim him, although they would have to assume his contract if they did. If he clears waivers by 4 p.m. today, he is a free agent.
Several teams are hunting for kickers, most seriously the Cincinnati Bengals, who placed Mike Nugent on injured reserve and Tuesday signed a kicker with no regular-season NFL experience. The Jets nearly lost Sunday to Cleveland because Nick Folk missed three field goals, including one from 24 yards.
"We want to get back out and kick and finish the year on a positive note," said Don Henderson, Reed's agent. "Who knows at this point in the season? A lot of things can happen."
The Bengals play in Heinz Field Dec. 17, and the Jets pay a visit one week later.
Tomlin issued a mixed bag for the state of Steelers injuries, including a potential bothersome one to Troy Polamalu, who has a right Achilles tendon strain.
"We're probably going to slow him down here in the early portions of the week, just like we did with Heath Miller, with an eye toward practicing in the latter part of the week," Tomlin said. "We expect him to play."
He also expects Chris Kemoeatu to return to start at left guard after he missed the game against New England Sunday night with knee and ankle sprains. Defensive end Brett Keisel, who has missed three of the past four games, "is still working with his hamstring. We'll see where he is later in the week."
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons left Sunday night's game with a hip bruise and "that may limit him in the early portion of the week. We expect him to come back."
Safety Will Allen experienced headaches Saturday from his concussion Nov. 8 and will undergo more tests this week.
Cornerback Crezdon Butler has a thigh strain.
Tomlin said Jonathan Scott performed well enough to keep his job at left tackle after making his first start for injured Max Starks.