Jeff Reed is endearing himself to everybody these days. After he turned in another terrible game against the Patriots, he called out the fans. Per the Post-Gazette:
'Reed's short miss came late in the third quarter with the Steelers behind 17-3. When he next kicked, an extra point following a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, fans in Heinz Field let out a loud, seemingly mock cheer.
Did he notice that reaction from the fans?
"I don't really know what you're talking about, but it doesn't surprise me. If you're not perfect in this city, man, then you're going to hear about it. It's been like that for nine years, and why would they stop now?
"Like I said there's 95 percent of those fans that got my back totally and then 5 percent you always hear. They're right by the kicking net, they were bashing me, but that's life, man, you got to move on. The worst thing for me to do would be to fight back at them.
"They started before the game even started. You know, like I said, they buy tickets just to bash me and Dan [Sepulveda] and Greg [Warren]. It's more me because points come off my foot."'
Really, Jeff? You think the fans were booing the holder and the snapper? He is living in a world of delusion if he thinks: (a) only 5% of the fans are sick of his shit and (2) that anybody in their right mind was booing Sepulveda (or Warren, for that matter.)
Now, he's endearing himself to the grounds crew at Heinz Field, to say nothing of the Steelers front office. Per ESPN:
'After the loss, Reed called into question the quality of the turf at Heinz Field.
"I'm not one to make excuses," Reed was quoted as saying in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I'll take the credit for the miss. It was a great snap, a great hold, great protection. It's kind of hard when you plant your foot and the hole -- a piece of ground moves where the ball's under the holder. I almost missed the ball completely.
"I'm not going to make excuses. If you've played any kind of sports in your life, you realize that what we play on is not very good turf. It happens."'
When our little thunder thighs first came to Pittsburgh, one of his greatest strengths was that he was oblivious to just about everything around him - crowd noise, pressure, rain, field conditions, wind, opponent -- didn't matter. He just went out and kicked.
He won big, big games for the Steelers. Like this one in 2007 versus the Dolphins (at right). I don't know that I've ever seen worse conditions, particularly not worse for a kicker. And yet in a tremendously important game, he hit one of the most unlikely field goals in team history.
He could kick at Heinz Field! Nobody can kick there. He was unfazed by pressure, unbothered by opposing coaches trying to ice him, didn't care about the time on the clock or the game on the line. He went from baling hay to kicking for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dude was a veritable folk hero around here.
Shortly after Super Bowl XL, I was at the Pitt-WVU basketball game at the Pete and a bunch of Steelers were there. Swear to God, Reed's hair was standing straight up(a good two inches) and he was wearing a thick headband. Also, he had on dark knee socks, into which his jeans were tucked. I think he was wearing shower sandals on his feet. Only our Skippy, right?**
Despite his obvious shortcomings - his hair, the photos of his junk, his clothing** -- we loved him for it. We did. The fans loved them some Skippy.
But it's all gone to hell now. Sadly. There was a time when I thought Jeff Reed was one of the three best kickers in the league (along with David Akers and Adam Vinatieri.) And, like any really great kicker, his greatest strength was his nerves. Nothing seemed to get to him.
He was money. Then, somehow, we didn't notice the shift, because it was subtle, but he was mostly money with a few misses. Still, nobody complained. You can't expect him to hit everything, particularly not at Heinz Field and the little hayseed with bad hair still enjoyed beloved kicker status. Then he turned into an erratic kicker, but one still capable of hitting some big kicks at least some of the time.
Now, he's just a kicker who is reliably unreliable. When the Steelers need a big kick, he shanks it like a golfer with the yips.
Reed is like a rotten potato in the vegetable crisper drawer. He makes the whole refrigerator stink.
This is the guy who wants to be the league's highest paid kicker? Get out of my face.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Steelers are auditioning kickers today at Heinz Field. I know it's a risk to switch kickers mid-season. I know it could blow up in the Steelers faces.
But it could also turn out as well as it did when Coach Cowher brought in an unknown named Jeff Reed. It's time, people. It's time.