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Suisham getting his kicks with Pittsburgh

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Monday, Dec. 27, 2010

Shaun Suisham shares similarities with Jeff Reed, from a fast start in their first six games as the Steelers' kicker to a passion for the Penguins.

If Suisham has learned anything from his predecessor, it's to not complain about the conditions at Heinz Field.

"It's what you would expect, kicking in December outdoors on a natural surface," Suisham said. "There's certainly wind out there. It's just part of kicking here in Pittsburgh."

So far it's been mostly all good.

Other than a 41-yard attempt that sailed wide right against Carolina on Thursday, Suisham has made a seamless transition from free agent to replacement for one of the most reliable kickers in club history.

"He's been on the money," running back Rashard Mendenhall said. "Whatever the situation, we feel good about him going out there."

Suisham has played a starring role twice for the Steelers. He converted four field goals of 41 yards or longer, including the game-winner on a 48-yarder, to beat Buffalo, 19-16, in overtime. And he made two field goals and served as emergency punter in a 13-10 victory at Baltimore.

"That's my job," Suisham said. "I'm doing everything I can to perform on the field."

Suisham didn't anticipate punting in such a pivotal AFC North game against Baltimore. But after Daniel Sepulveda suffered a torn ACL, Suisham twice pinned the Ravens inside their own 5-yard line only to have the punts called back by penalties.

"That's something that you never want to happen because that means something happened to your punter," he said. "Unfortunately for Dan, he had a serious knee injury. In that situation, you fill in and you just need to be serviceable."

Suisham has been serviceable and then some, although his career has prepared him to be ready for anything. It's not the first time he filled in as punter, nor was it the first time he has adjusted to a new holder in midseason. He did both in Washington.

"I've had a lot of holders since I've been in the NFL," said Suisham, a five-year veteran. "That's part of it. It's my job to make the field goals."

So far he's 12 of 13 — better than Reed's start with the Steelers in 2002, when he was 17 of 19.

"He's got to do better because with what Jeff's done, you don't expect any less," nose tackle Casey Hampton said.

Suisham knows something about converting, considering he was a Washington Capitals fan until the Penguins recently invited the Wallaceburg, Ontario, native — who played Junior C hockey — to tour Consol Energy Center and presented him with a Sidney Crosby sweater.

Suisham also met Crosby, Canada's Olympic hero, and a fellow Bowling Green alumnus in Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

"He's a great player, one of the best in the world, so to be able to talk with him was neat," Suisham said of Crosby.

Suisham won't be watching the Penguins play the Capitals in the Winter Classic because the Steelers will be traveling to Cleveland for their season finale. And even though Suisham loves to play pickup hockey in the offseason, he won't be lacing up for a skate at Heinz Field.

Not with the playoffs approaching.

"This time of the year is a business time," Suisham said. "My focus and my purpose is to kick field goals here, not to chase a dream as a hockey player."

So far it's been mostly all good.

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