Shaun Suisham is coming off a season in which set a career-high in field goal percentage, connecting on 30 of 32 attempts at a rate of 93.8 percent. That just edged out his debut season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010, during which he made 14 of 15 field goals in the final seven games for a rate of 93.3.
As I’ve previously written, Suisham is the most accurate field goal kicker the Steelers have had in their history, averaging 87.2 percent on field goal attempts during his three and a half seasons with the team.
That would make him the most accurate field goal kicker in league history, ahead of Mike Vanderjagt’s 86.466 percent career average, spent mostly kicking in a dome. Of course, Suisham’s overall career field goal percentage actually places him 14th, and 10th among active kickers.
It is because of these facts that the Steelers reached out to him this offseason in the final year of his contract to work out a new four-year extension averaging about $3 million per season.
It certainly was not because of his booming leg. He has only attempted 13 field goals from 50 yards or beyond, and made just four of them. Five attempts and two successful field goals have come with the Steelers.
And when it comes to kickoffs, Suisham only has 107 touchbacks in 511 attempts in his career, at a rate of just barely over 20 percent, though 81 of those touchbacks have come in the past three seasons since kickoffs were moved to the 35-yard line.
That rate is still well below average; 28 kickers had more touchbacks than Suisham a year ago, many of them substantially more.
Which is what makes it all the more concerning that the 32-year-old Canadian has missed three kicks so far this preseason, including an experimental extra point attempt from the 15-yard line that is basically a field goal.
It may be tempting to blame all the variables that Suisham has had to deal with this season. Having Brad Wing as his new holder, and even dealing with not one but two different long snappers with Greg Warren out, could presumably be a challenge.
On Thursday, Bryce Davis’ snap on Suisham’s miss was slightly to the right, but Wing fielded it and placed it very well for Suisham. I can’t reasonably assign blame on the ball placement on that miss, nor can I with the other misses, such as the one a week ago with Luke Ingram snapping.
And the truth of the matter is that Suisham is no stranger to variables. He has dealt with holder swaps not only from week to week but in-game with the Steelers, and it hasn’t affected his performance in the past. He’s even had to punt before.
Maybe a couple of preseason hiccups is not enough to go into panic mode over a kicker who has arguably been the best in team history, but it certainly begins to raise concerns as each game passes with such a hiccup. And the only way to find out if there is cause for concern is to allow it to play out.