Gene Puskar/AP Photo
I have written a number of articles through the years on the psychological aspects of performance in high-pressure situations, especially as it relates to kickers. As pointed out by Tim Booth, this week’s Sunday night game provides a tailor-made case study of an aspect of it I haven’t covered quite as much—how the reaction of a kicker’s coach after the fact affects them in the coming attempts.
In case you’ve been in an NFL-free cave since the end of the Steelers-Patriots game, last Sunday night’s game ended in a tie after the kickers for both Seattle and Arizona missed chip-shot field goals for the win. (Both attempts were under 30 yards.)
Since the public reaction of each kicker’s coach was so different, it is, as Booth noted, the perfect set-up for a psychology experiment. Here, in tweet form, is the essence of what each coach said:
Once again Bob Labriola’s feature on Steelers.com Asked and Answered has provided me with material for a post, and thank heavens for that. Here’s the question:
If you could take any defensive player and any offensive player from any team(s) in the rest of the league for the Steelers right now, who would they be?
The temptation might be to say to add an offensive superstar to the mix, such as Todd Gurley to a backfield already containing Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, or a receiver such as Julio Jones or A.J. Green or Brandon Marshall to pair with Antonio Brown. But all-star teams don’t win championships in football. Remember when the Eagles believed they had assembled the “dream team” in 2011 only to finish 8-8? What about the 2000 Redskins, when Daniel Snyder tried to assemble a fantasy football team, and it also finished 8-8?
So, rather than mess with the chemistry and the selflessness the Steelers have created in this locker room, for offense, all I want is for everybody to stay healthy all season. Everybody. All of the starters and all of the backups, and I’ll take my chances with that group. On defense, give me the 2008 version of James Harrison – 16 sacks and 34 pressures – to go along with the rest of the existing personnel, and I would be willing to play anybody anywhere. Even the mighty Arizona Cardinals.
I read this column about five minutes after putting Ivan Cole’s post on Shaun Suisham in the queue. Ivan’s point, if I may be allowed to put words in his mouth, were that while everyone is going to have to deal with injuries, the timing of the injuries and the personnel to whom they happened was particularly problematic last season.
This is going to be a tough article to write. One of my favorite Steelers announced today that he is leaving the NFL. I’ll let him start. Here’s the statement he released:
“Thank you Pittsburgh and all of Steelers Nation!
“Unfortunately, the injury I sustained in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game last preseason was catastrophic and has proven to be critical to continuing my career. My journey in the NFL has come to a crossroads.
“I was raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario, as a hockey player and have been on an improbable 16-year journey as a kicker, competing at the highest level. The absolute nature of my position has given me the opportunity to test my resolve, and I have grown both professionally and as a man.
“Undoubtedly, I will miss the challenge of game day and the preparation that is required. Change is hard, but I’m comfortable with where I am in life as a husband and father.
“I will always be grateful to every team and coach that has given me an opportunity in the NFL. I am especially grateful to everyone —teammates, coaches and fans — in our adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.
“Best always, Shaun Suisham and family.”
As most of you who frequent this site know, I’m a big Shaun Suisham fan, and consequently was very conflicted about the upcoming kicker situation.
There is, after all, no getting around the fact that Chris Boswell, who appears to have ice water in his veins, kicked very well. Nor can one deny that he’s younger and cheaper than Suisham. Furthermore, he, like Suisham, appears to be a very solid human being, something which matters a lot to me.
Consequently I was viewing the coming camp battle between the two with distinctly mixed emotions. Neither man has done anything so far to deserve to lose the job, but somebody has to. The assumption was, though, that this decision would be made in August.
Recent events indicate that there is more to the situation than meets the eye. Two days ago Mike Tomlin kicked the tires, if you will, on yet another kicker, Roberto Aguayo. Tomlin was at the Florida State Pro Day on Tuesday, and attempted to ice Aguayo, as reported by ESPN: Read more
If you were paying attention at all in 2015 you know what I’m talking about. As NFL writer Kevin Patra reported last May:
The NFL has been tinkering with the PAT in hopes of making it a more difficult and therefore entertaining play for spectators. The latest change might be just the first step of further adjustments in years to come.
It appears to have worked extremely well.
I confess I was pretty skeptical when they announced the change. After all, this took it from a 19-yard kick to a 32-yard kick, a distance that equates to a high degree of accuracy among NFL kickers. No biggie, right?
Well, it appears it is a biggie, because a large number of extra points were missed in the 2015 season, something that hadn’t been seen for years. But furthermore, kicker accuracy overall was down, and at least a few kickers were attributing this to the mental stress of the longer PAT.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Peter Diana photo
Hombre de Acero’s 5 Smoldering Questions this week not surprisingly contained the following:
2. All was not positive in the Steelers victory, as Josh Scobee missed an extra point attempt, making that three misses in two weeks. As the Steelers luck with place kickers this year does not seem to be good, are you worried yet?
It’s hard to imagine there is anyone in Steeler Nation, from Head Coach Mike Tomlin down to all but the least observant fans, who aren’t at least discomfited by Scobee’s horrific 50.0% made field goal percentage so far (not to mention a missed extra point attempt.)
Therefore it may surprise you, as it did me, to discover he isn’t the lowest ranked kicker in the NFL, or even close to it, at least according to Pro Football Focus. He is ranked No. 28 out of 39 ranked kickers. Nor is he the only kicker to have missed half his attempts so far. Graham Gano, who kicks for the Panthers, has also missed half of his kicks this season. He is 3 for 6, so this is even a larger sample size than Scobee’s 2 of 4. Gano is ranked No. 5. Read more