Suisham preparing to take part in NFL extra-point experiment
June 20, 2014 10:42 PM
Steelers punter Adam Podlesh watches the ball fly through the air as kicker Shaun Suisham follows through on a field goal attempt at the Steelers' South Side practice field.
By Sean Hammond / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Shaun Suisham doesn't remember either of the extra points he has missed in his NFL career.
But Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith remembers both . Suisham and Smith were in the same positions with the Washington Redskins when Suisham missed one in 2007 and had another blocked in 2009. Those misses dropped Suisham's career extra-point percentage to .991.
Even so, neither Suisham nor Smith think the extra point is too easy in the NFL.
"One of the worst statements and one of the worst phrases I ever hear when I watch professional sports is 'chip shot,' " Smith said. "There ain't no gimmes in this league. These are professionals. I don't think anything is a gimme, a chip shot.
"You're counting on snap, you're counting on hold, you're counting on laces. You've got these big guys with long arms coming off edges. It's not automatic."
In 2013, NFL kickers missed five of 1,267 extra-point attempts. Suisham and the Steelers were a perfect 39 for 39.
Such numbers have prompted the NFL to experiment with longer extra points in the first two weeks of the upcoming preseason. For those two weeks, extra points will be spotted at the 20-yard line, rather than the 2 -- essentially turning the extra point into a 37-yard field goal.
That is certainly no chip shot.
Smith doesn't believe the two-game experiment will be enough to give the NFL much of a sample size, especially since the longer extra points will come in early August.
"A long extra point becomes an issue when you're in Pittsburgh in December, when you're in Cleveland, when you're in Baltimore, Cincinnati, New England," Smith said. "I don't think it's going to tell us a whole lot in the preseason because we're all going to be kicking on sunny days."
If it were up to Smith or Suisham, the rules and distance for extra points would not change. But it's not up to them.
In March, NFL owners voted down another proposal to move kickoffs from the 35-yard line to the 40. The only change to the kicking game that was approved for the regular season was to extend the uprights 5 feet higher, making things easier on the on-the-field officials.
Kickoffs were moved from the 30 to the 35 in 2011 after being scrutinized for how dangerous they are, with players on both teams running at full speed toward each other.
Suisham said moving the kickoff up another 5 yards would be better than eliminating it altogether, but he's not in favor of changing it at all.
"I enjoy the kickoff, I think it's an exciting play," Suisham said.
Many football fans would agree, and, for now, nothing will change. The extra point has remained the same throughout most of the NFL's history. The only change was the addition in 1994 of the option to go for two points.
Should special teams be punished because they have become good at something?
"Anybody that studies the extra point, these kickers and this operation has gotten very specialized, and it should be," Smith said. "They're professionals, that's their job. That's what they're expected to do. I would question fooling with the game at this point."
Suisham likened moving the extra point back to making someone's day job harder. And he seems to like his job the way it is.
"Hopefully, they don't eliminate the kicking position altogether because I kind of like working in the NFL," he said, jokingly.
Sean Hammond: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1466 and Twitter @sean_hammond.
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