The Pittsburgh Steelers are bringing in three kickers on Tuesday in hopes of identifying a replacement for Shaun Suisham, who tore his left ACL on kickoff coverage in Sunday night’s preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Though kickers are more accurate than ever before, in four of the five seasons Suisham has played for the Steelers he has made more than 90 percent of his field goal attempts, impressive since he was picked up 10 weeks into the 2010 season after Jeff Reed was released following a missed chip shot field goal.
True, last season Suisham missed a chip shot, a 23-yarder against the New York Jets, that probably secured the Steelers' 20-13 loss. But otherwise, Suisham was extremely reliable in 2014, his only other misses among his 32 field goal attempts coming from 50 yards or longer. Ironically, both came at the end of the first half in what turned out to be three-point losses.
Suisham also came through in the clutch, however, including the 41-yarder to beat Cleveland in the season opener.
But with Suisham now lost for the 2015 season, here’s a look at the three potential candidates head coach Mike Tomlin will be taking a look at today.
Hartley's career peaked during New Orleans’ Super Bowl season in 2009. The then-29-year-old kicker made four big kicks in the playoffs of 40 or more yards after being suspended the first four games for a violation of the league’s policy on the use of banned substances (Adderall).
Hartley last played for the Cleveland Browns at the end of last season, where he made all five of his kicks — three field goals and two extra points.
One warning flag: with extra points now moved from the 20-yard line to the 32, Hartley missed eight of his 35 career field goal attempts from 30-39 yards.
One interesting fact about Hartley: though he has played much of his career in the Superdome, indoors and on artificial turf; historically he has made only 75 percent of his field goal attempts in domes and 89.1 percent outdoors. He also has made five of six field goal attempts in stadiums with a retractable roof.
Career accuracy: 81.7 percent (85 for 104)
Career long: 55 yards
Career from 50 yards and out: 6 for 8
Henery, 27, was the most accurate kicker in the history of the NCAA, converting 89.5 percent of his attempts in his Nebraska career. Remember, in college the hash marks are wider apart, hence the angles are more difficult.
He also was athletic enough to get a soccer scholarship from Creighton.
Henery played three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, making at least 82 percent of his attempts in each. But he was released prior to the start of last season, losing his job to undrafted Cody Parkey. Henery landed with Detroit, but he was awful, missing four of five field goal attempts in Weeks 4 and 5 before getting cut.
Included in that mix was a 50-yarder at home against Buffalo in Week 5 with just 26 seconds remaining in a tie game. It was Henery's third miss in the game, and gave the Bills the ball back on their 40. With just 21 seconds on the clock, Kyle Orton was able to complete a 20-yard pass to Sammy Watkins to set up a 58-yard attempt from Dan Carpenter, which he hit to give the Bills a 17-14 victory.
From 30-39 yards Henery is 24-for-28 in his career.
Career accuracy: 82.4 percent (75 for 91)
Career long: 51 yards
Career from 50 yards and out: 3 of 8
Though some may remember Feely most from Dane Cook's portrayal in a “Saturday Night Live” skit after a game in which Feely missed three kicks at Seattle and then had to land the New York Giants' airplane returning home, the veteran kicker led the NFL in field goals made in 2002 with 32.
More recently, Feely, 39, was the Chicago Bears' kicker for the last four games of the 2014 season, making three of four field goal attempts and five of six extra point attempts.
Though he has played mostly for warm-weather or dome teams in his career, in addition to Chicago, Feely also has spent two seasons kicking for each of New York’s teams. His accuracy outdoors is 83.3 percent, whereas it is 78 percent indoors and 87.2 percent under retractable roofs.
One wonders about diminishing leg strength as a kicker gets older, but two years ago Feely tied a career high with three successful field goals (in five attempts) of 50 or more yards for the Arizona Cardinals. Just three years ago he kicked a 61-yard-field goal, his career long.
An interesting note: in the Steelers' 3-0 victory against Miami in 2007, played on a muddy Heinz Field that limited the offense, Feely was the Dolphins' placekicker. He did not attempt a single extra point or field goal, but was able to boot the opening kickoff 58 yards. However briefly, Feely has a background with the improved-but-historically treacherous kicking conditions of the Steelers' home field at its worst point.
He is 17-for-19 from 30-39 yards over the past three seasons, and 119-for-138 (86.2 percent) from that distance in his career.
Still, Tomlin has been attracted to youth when putting together his roster. If Feely becomes the Steelers' new kicker, one can imagine he will have significantly distanced himself from his competition in tryouts.
Career accuracy: 82.6 percent (332 for 402)
Career long: 61 yards
Career from 50 yards and out: 18 for 32