PITTSBURGH – Antwaan Randle El remembers the hard times new Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell had to endure in Washington D.C.
But those were nothing compared to what another of Randle El’s former teammates went through in the capital city.
Randle El remembers what his newest teammate with the Steelers, kicker Shaun Suisham, went through after his last kick there.
“It was tough,” Randle El said as he shook his head.
He paused and then continued.
“Hey, it was just tough.”
Suisham signed with the Steelers yesterday to replace Jeff Reed.
Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green by the Steelers in 2005, Suisham worked regular-season games with the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins, and then again with the Cowboys throughout the last five seasons.
In that time Suisham made 79 percent of his field goals, but the big miss in Washington – a 23-yarder late in an eventual overtime loss to the undefeated New Orleans Saints – doomed him to the nickname “The Choke.”
“Yeah and that’s just – it’s tough,” Randle El said. “When that happens, you just pick up and move on.”
And that’s what Suisham did. The Redskins released him and he finished the 2009 season with Dallas.
The Cowboys didn’t re-sign Suisham this year, but the Cleveland Browns signed him in the spring and cut him before the St. Louis Rams brought him to their training camp. Suisham only kicked an extra-point in the Rams’ preseason opener and was cut before the next game.
Suisham tried out for the Detroit Lions two weeks ago, but the Lions instead signed Dave Rayner. The Steelers brought Suisham in Tuesday and were impressed by his workout at Heinz Field.
“If you’re going to pick up a guy, he’s a good guy to pick up,” Randle El said. “I hate to see Jeff Reed leave, especially in the circumstances in the middle of the season. I’m sure something other than kicking had to be involved in that deal.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that nothing but Reed’s on-field results factored into the decision. Reed entered the season as the Steelers’ all-time most accurate kicker, but converted only 15 of 22 attempts this season.
Reed’s last attempt was a misfire from 26 yards away late in the third quarter of Sunday night’s loss to the New England Patriots. Reed complained after the game of – among other things – the condition of the field, that his plant leg had slipped. Holder Daniel Sepulveda said Reed had reason to complain.
“There was a hole there,” Sepulveda said. “I filled it in, replaced the divot, and moved the ball. There’s only so much you can do.”
Yet the result was similar to Suisham’s in Washington and both took the heat, which, according to Randle El, is unfair.
“We were upset no question,” Randle El said of his Redskins teammates. “But at the same time, he didn’t win or lose the game. That’s the way we look at it. We lost as an offense. We always talk about not leaving it up to the kicker. Let’s put the ball in the end zone and kick the extra point.”
The same could be said on Reed’s behalf, since the Steelers’ offense failed to gain any yardage in three plays from the New England 8 before Reed’s last miss. Yet, Tomlin wasn’t willing to listen to the excuses and signed Suisham (pronounced Swee-zum) instead.
“I’m very excited to be here,” Suisham said. “In 2005 I would’ve paid the Steelers to let me come here. It was a really special opportunity. I didn’t even know if I was going to get into an NFL camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers did that for me. I had a lot of fun here. So I was really excited to get the phone call to come back.”
He can only hope – like any kicker – that the excitement endures throughout the rest of the season.