Steelers' Reed in a groove
The kicks he misses are the ones that stick in his mind, so you have to believe Jeff Reed has a pretty clear mind these days.
The Steelers' seventh-year place-kicker has made 31 of his past 33 field-goal attempts, including playoffs -- and it's not like the two misses were gimmes.
One was a 65-yarder at Denver just before halftime last season (it was on target, Reed says, but fell two yards short). The other occurred on one of the worst playing surfaces in NFL history - the swamp-like setting at Heinz Field against Miami last season - when Reed went wide left on a 44-yard try.
Otherwise, the man hasn't missed a kick since Dec. 7, 2006, against Cleveland. And that one was blocked.
This season, Reed is 2 for 2 with makes from 48 and 44 yards.
"The only thing in my mind when I go out there is, 'Let's get this over with; I'm going to make it, and we're going to move on,' " Reed said. "I don't want my teammates to feel like I'm letting them down."
Reed's teammates are glad to have him. He has proven especially useful in clutch situations, including 11 for 13 and 10 in a row in the playoffs.
"I'd rather score touchdowns than field goals, but it's always a plus having a kicker like that," tackle Marvel Smith said.
Smith laughed and added, "Everybody says it's a tough life for a kicker. I don't see it that way."
Maybe not, compared to the life of an offensive lineman, but it's not like Reed had an easy path to the NFL after an excellent senior year at North Carolina in 2001. He hasn't forgotten that he was working on a friend's dairy farm for $10 an hour in Chapel Hill, N.C., when the Steelers called Nov. 18, 2002.
And he'll never forget his audition at Heinz Field.
Reed had already failed in several NFL tryouts. The Steelers' kicker, Todd Peterson, was out with a broken rib, so the team invited Reed and three other kickers - NFL veteran Michael Husted plus youngsters Joe O'Donnell and Danny Boyd - to Heinz Field. Each attempted 10 field goals on a rainy, windy day, as several team executives and coach Bill Cowher watched.
Reed made seven but missed two from between 30-40 yards.
"People were always like, 'You did great that day,' but they weren't there," Reed said. "We all kicked average. I made the longest one but I missed a few. I was kind of like laughing, like, 'Seriously, is this what you guys kick in?' The field was slop."
All four players were transported back to the team's South Side practice facility, where they sat in an empty locker room and waited like high school kids to see who'd made the team. One by one, they were summoned to speak with Cowher and director of football operations Kevin Colbert.
Reed went last.
"The other guys were saying, 'Good luck,' but I didn't know if I had the job or if they'd send me home, too," Reed said. "It was a pretty good feeling when they had a contract up there."
Reed made 17 of 19 field-goal attempts that first year. He had a shaky second season (23 of 32) but has been solid ever since and has no plans to return to the dairy farm.
"I always believed in myself," he said. "I just needed an opportunity."