Coming into training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced a situation in which they had five current starters slated to hit free agency after this season was over, following extensions given to center Maurkice Pouncey, safety Troy Polamalu, and tight end Heath Miller.
With their starting right tackle, their best pass rusher, and both starting cornerbacks scheduled to hit the open market, the front office turned their attention to…kicker Shaun Suisham, who received a four-year extension that ties him to the organization through 2018.
In the meantime, critical up-and-comers such as Cortez Allen, Jason Worilds, and a reportedly slimmed down Marcus Gilbert must wait and see if something can’t be worked out over the next three or so weeks.
The truth is that the Steelers didn’t exactly get a bargain signing Suisham to the four-year extension. According to Ian Whetstone, the new money makes him the 10th-highest paid kicker in the league by yearly average.
On the other hand, the deal doesn’t appear to move the salary cap dial much, if at all, meaning that Suisham’s deal should have little to no effect on working out deals with some of the other players awaiting them.
And it does provide the Steelers some stability on special teams, where it has been a nightmare recently, at least when it comes to punting.
Since the Steelers signed Suisham to replace the floundering Jeff Reed in 2010, the team has gone through five different punters—not including the inevitable new face manning the position this year.
That also does not include the two occasions in which Suisham was forced to serve as punter in 2010 and 2011 when Daniel Sepulveda went down in separate injuries. His hang time was terrible, but he did kick a 73-yarder against the Kansas City Chiefs, which admittedly ended in a touchback.
But he obviously wasn’t re-signed in order to be an emergency punter. And quite honestly, he wasn’t signed for his booming kickoffs, either. He’s still average to below average when it comes to registering touchbacks on kickoffs.
Nor has he been re-signed because he gives the Steelers a greater range to score from, because the reality is that the team will rarely entrust a field goal of greater than 50 yards to the Canadian kicker. He is, in fact, just two of five from 50-plus with the Steelers, and is four of 13 for his career.
What he is, however, is the most accurate kicker in team history at 87.2 percent over his four years in Pittsburgh. That would be good for the highest-career field goal percentage in NFL history. As it is, his overall career average of 83.1 percent currently lands him in the fourteenth spot all time, and 10th among active kickers.
The simple fact of the matter is that it’s far more valuable to be dead-on with regularity from 30-49 yards out than it is to be semi-reliable from beyond 50. That’s what Suisham has shown in his career with the Steelers, going 62-for-72 in that sweet spot, including 41-of-43 over the past two seasons.
He may not be in line for a Pro Bowl any time soon, and his deal may not necessarily have come at a bargain, but it was a smart investment to tie him down now while leaving the salary cap untouched for 2014.