By Jeremy Hritz
Back on May 10th, I addressed the issue of the Pittsburgh Steelers kicking situation, and I proposed that the Steelers should take a chance on kicker Grant Ressel, who was signed as an undrafted free agent from the University of Missouri. Ressel boasted impressive numbers from his collegiate career, and while Shaun Suisham had been serviceable during his time with the Steelers, he hadn’t necessarily been reliable, or automatic.
In 2002, the Steelers took a chance on the eccentric Jeff Reed, and it ultimately worked out well for the team for several years. While Reed is long gone, and Ressel has since been released, undrafted rookie free agent Danny Hrapmann has emerged as a legitimate possibility to be the Steelers placekicker for many years to come.
Suisham has hit 80% of his field goals during his two years with the Steelers, but has missed what could have been momentum swingers against the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl and against the Baltimore Ravens last season. The Steelers need a kicker who is dependable and who can come through on kicks that have the potential to influence the outcome of the game.
So far this preseason, Hrapmann has hit all of his field goal and extra point attempts, even sneaking through a kick that was partially blocked against the Colts. He has hit field goals of 43, 25, 39, 43, and 22, and has averaged 66 yards on kickoffs. In only two games, Hrapmann has put together a nice stat line, and has a chance tonight against the Buffalo Bills to strengthen his case to make the team.
While it is only the preseason, Hrapmann has been quietly impressive. The only cause for concern are his numbers from his college career. Hrapmann attempted 71 field goals, made 53 of them, resulting in a 74.6 success percentage. While that may seem low, consider that Suisham connected on only 68.2% of his field goals during his college career at Bowling Green State. He demonstrated in college that he is automatic on his attempts below 40 yards, but has a history of struggling on longer attempts. He has connected on two attempts over 40 yards this preseason; however, he has yet to attempt anything beyond 43 yards. If the Steelers are truly interested in what Hrapmann has to offer, they will test him from more challenging distances tonight against Buffalo, and next week against the Carolina Panthers.
The Steelers took a risk on Reed, and if Hrapmann can continue to connect over the next two games, they need to seriously consider axing Suisham and moving forward with him. Not only could the move potentially upgrade the position and solidify it for a long time, according to Dave Bryan, it could also save $960,000 in cap money, though it would count as a $328,500 cap hit this year, and a $657,000 dead money hit next season. While $960,000 is not an obscene amount, every little bit will help in the team’s effort to work out a new contract for Wallace.
Eyes will be on Hrapmann tonight to see if he is a legitimate kicking candidate for the Steelers in 2012 and beyond, and that will undoubtedly create some palpable pressure for the undrafted rookie.
And what better way to find out what he is made of?