Cook: Steelers make wrong move with Reed
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The Steelers fired kicker Jeff Reed Tuesday because of his erratic performance on the field this season or his erratic behavior off it or some combination of the two. No matter the reason, coach Mike Tomlin made a bad mistake. If he had brought in kicker Shaun Suisham to challenge Reed, make him feel a little less comfortable and bring out the competitor in him, that would have been great. But to flat out release Reed? The team will be worse off because of it.
Reed has had a bad season, no question. He missed a 26-yard field goal against the New England Patriots Sunday night, although that seemed pretty far down the Steelers' list of problems after their 39-26 loss. The week before, he missed a 46-yard try that would have clinched a win against the Cincinnati Bengals, making his teammates sweat out a 27-21 victory that didn't end until the Bengals ran out of downs on the Steelers' 12. In the 17-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Oct. 3, he missed from 49 and 45 yards.
For the season, Reed missed seven of his 22 field-goal attempts. This is the same guy who missed just 10 of his 87 tries in the previous three seasons. I know, kickers -- like real football players -- can lose it in a hurry. But Reed doesn't strike me as someone who is finished. I'm convinced he'll go on to another team and be successful again. I still think he can be one of the top kickers in the NFL. I'm not buying the argument that he had checked out mentally here and would never be good again for the Steelers, a conclusion that Tomlin obviously reached. I like to think if the game Sunday against the Oakland Raiders comes down to a 48-yarder on the bad turf in the wind and rain at Heinz Field that Reed would have drilled it. I guess we'll never know for sure.
Reed didn't help himself by acting like a jerk after the game against the Patriots. Funny, I thought it was wide receiver Hines Ward who was hit in the head that night, but it was Reed who sounded loopy. He said he wouldn't make excuses for the missed field goal, then spent five minutes doing just that. He blamed the lousy kicking conditions at Heinz Field, even though he always used to brag about doing well on that imperfect turf. He even took on the fans -- OK, 5 percent of 'em -- for going out of their way to boo him or mock cheer him when he misses a kick. It's never a good thing to take on the paying customers.
As inane as his ramblings were, Reed was much more inflammatory during the summer after he failed to reach a long-term contract with the Steelers. "I was told one thing and another thing happened. I'm not a big fan of lying," he said, a shot, presumably, directed at the Rooneys. He also said, rather famously, that "life is not really fair." That comment was made after the Steelers put their franchise tag on him and agreed to pay him $2.8 million this season. Life should be so unfair for all of us.
Reed also was involved in two incidents involving police in an eight-month period. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and criminal mischief after causing a disturbance and beating up a towel dispenser in February 2009 at the Sheetz store in New Alexandria. He also was arrested after a dust-up with cops in October 2009 outside a North Shore bar after a Steelers' game. Those charges later were dropped.
Tomlin said he didn't cut Reed because of his off-field indiscretions, including his latest stupid remarks Sunday night. "I'm more results-oriented. Results are what lead us to decisions." I hope that is true in this case. Pro football is a business. It should never become personal.
Still, Reed is gone and Suisham is in as the Steelers' kicker. Suisham has been out of football this season, which creates at least some doubt about his ability. He also must cope with the Heinz Field conditions at the worst weather time of the year and do it for a 6-3 team that still looks at itself as a serious Super Bowl contender, that fanny-kicking from the Patriots be damned. It's not as if he has signed on to kick for the 2-7 Bengals.
Good luck to Suisham with that.
As for Reed, here's hoping he won't be remembered just as "Sheetzilla" around here. He was some kicker for a long time. Shame on Tomlin for not being able to say anything nicer about the man as he pushed him out of the door than, "Jeff had a distinguished career here." Reed had much more than that for the Steelers. The man made significant contributions to two Super Bowl teams. For years, he was as dependable as anyone on the team.
Reed also was one of the more active Steelers in the community. Word is that when it came to charitable causes he never asked how much, only where and when. Those who saw him in those circumstances loved him.
Reed had a heck of a run here. He shouldn't soon be forgotten.
First Published November 17, 2010 12:00 am