The more I watch NFL kickers, the more I realize how similar kicking is to pitching in baseball. Both kickers and pitchers can change the game more than you would think. Is it still possible to win with a terrible kicker, or a terrible pitcher? It is, but it becomes so much easier if you have a great pitcher or a great kicker. Below I have listed a few comparisons between the two positions:
- Both pitchers and kickers have to be able to close out the back ground noise and distraction around them. Fans have the right to cheer loud, and this is why pitchers and kickers can’t let fans get in the way of their success
- Pitchers and kickers need to be clutch. If they aren’t clutch, they have to settle with being a decent player, and not a great one. Decent kickers and pitchers might be great in less tense situations, but if they can’t be clutch when the going gets tough, they don’t present much value. The Steelers lost several games by 3 points, so every field goal and extra point becomes vital
- Pitching and kicking are both mental games. For the most part, most pitchers can throw most pitches and most starting kickers can kick at least 45 yards. So why do pitchers not always throw strikes and why do kickers not always make kicks under 45 yards? It is all a mental game.
As NFL kickers, one season a kicker might be top of the league, next season he could be in the middle of the pack. This doesn’t mean they don’t have the same talent as the previous season, it means something mentally changed upstairs. A perfect example of this was Mason Crosby, aka Missin Crosby, from 2011-2012. In 2011, Crosby made 24/28 field goals with a 85.7 rating. He was one of the top kickers in the league, but it all changed in 2012. Crosby went from 85.7 to 63.6 in field goal percentage. He made only 21 out of 33 field goals. Packer fans as well as the entire team were crossing their fingers every single time Crosby went to kick a field goal. Again this shows a prime example of how kicking is a mental game.
After Jeff Reed became more and more of a problem for the Steelers in 2010, he was cut and the Steelers brought in Shaun Suisham in the middle of the season. Shaun Suisham did quite well for the Steelers in 2010 finishing 14/15 in the regular season. What will be remembered from Suisham that season was his very wide field goal attempt in the Superbowl.
The 2011 season was a completely different story. Suisham went 23/31 for a 74.2 field goal percentage. He constantly missed vital field goals and even though he was not as bad as Crosby was in 2012, Suisham created a lot of unhappy Steelers fans. I will go on the record saying that I wanted Suisham gone. I didn’t care who replaced him, I just wanted him gone. Even with Daniel Hrapman playing very well in the preseason, Suisham still was handed the job. I thought all was lost, but boy did Suisham prove me wrong.
Shaun Suisham had a Probowl caliber year. He went 28/31, and after barely missing a 54-yard field goal against the Titans, he made 13 straight field goals, only missing two 50+ yard field goals against the Bengals in week 16.
Suisham obviously changed his mentality big time. After being such an inconsistent kicker, Suisham turned into one of the mainstays on the Steelers. After constantly hopping around the NFL for the past 9 years, Suisham finally may have found a home after having a 90.3 field goal percentage. Even though he can’t seem to kick anything over 52, I would rather have a kicker that can consistently kick 50 yard field goals and under, instead of a guy like Jeff Reed who could kick 55+ field goals, but he was never very consistent.
In 2013, it will be interesting to see if Shaun Suisham can continue this consistency. While he might not be as consistent, I feel like he will be much better than the 74.2 field goal percentage the year before. With the Steelers wanting to improve on their 8-8 season, it becomes vital that Suisham continues this model of consistency.
In baseball, championship teams always have extremely good closer who can come in at clutch situations and win games for them. Last season, Suisham came in three times and won games for the Steelers in the final seconds. It remains to be seen whether Suisham can be the Steelers closer in 2013, but who knows, the Steelers season very well could depend on it.
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