NFL: Steelers kicker Reed provides comic relief
By Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH ó From his piled-high platinum hair to his funny sayings and off-the-wall behavior, Jeff Reed is the life of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ party.
If there’s a tense moment during practice or a game, Reed is the player most likely to bring levity. The Steelers’ locker room bulletin board offers proof, with a half-dozen photos of Reed’s face superimposed on those of men and women alike with bushy, dyed-blond hair.
“He is a goofball, no question about it,” defensive lineman Chris Hoke said Wednesday. “See all these pictures on the wall? He’s kind of a guy that gets everyone laughing all the time.”
Except when he lines up a kick.
Reed often gets overlooked when the NFL’s top kickers are mentioned, but it’s evident his teammates have as much confidence in him as any kicker in the game.
“Jeff Reed never disappoints us,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “We take for granted what he does. I’m not shy about saying that when he takes the field, it’s got to be three points. I think it takes a unique personality to do what he does.”
Reed is the son of former Wichita State basketball player Morris Reed ó mom Pam was a cheerleader ó but he played soccer most of his athletic career. He spent only three seasons as a kicker at any level, all of them after walking on at North Carolina, before signing with the Steelers following a midseason tryout in 2002.
Since going 1-for-3 as a rookie, Reed hasn’t missed a postseason field-goal attempt. He is 3-for-3 in these playoffs and 13-for-13 since 2004, even though Heinz Field’s often-spotty grass is considered by opposing players to be the NFL’s worst playing field.
Having a kicker that consistent gives an offense confidence that no drive will be wasted.
“Any time Jeff Reed goes on the field, we count it as three points,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
A year ago, Reed was about as perfect as a kicker can be ó his only two misses in 25 attempts were a desperation 65-yarder at Denver and a 44-yarder in ankle-deep mud at Heinz. He has been nearly as good this season, going 30-for-34, counting the playoffs, despite changing snappers at midseason and holders several times.
“It’s tough to have snappers and holders shuffled around on you during the year, and he’s handled it very well ó maybe not always had the best attitude about it, but he’s getting the job done,” punter Daniel Sepulveda said, laughing.
Asked to name the NFL’s best clutch kicker, many fans probably would suggest Adam Vinatieri, who has made so many key kicks for the Patriots and Colts. But while Vinatieri ranks only 13th in NFL career field goal percentage (331-of-403, 82.1 percent), Reed is eighth at 82.7 percent (162-of-196).
In the last two minutes of a game, when games often are won or lost, Reed is 27-of-33 (81.8 percent), Vinatieri is 70-of-90 (77.8 percent). He had two game-winners in the final minute this season.
“He’s a professional when it comes to his game day. He takes his practice very seriously and his game very seriously,” Sepulveda said. “When he’s in the zone, he’s in the zone. When he’s not in the zone? He knows how to have fun.”
That’s evident from the easy-to-find pictures on the Internet displaying Reed when he, uhh, lets his platinum hair down. He’s single and he enjoys it, from his courtside seats at Pitt basketball games to his nights on the town.
“There will be times when everybody’s a little more tense than normal the week of a game, and he’s out here messing around, laughing and joking, doing his thing,” Hoke said. “The guys are laughing and everybody’s getting loosened up.”
Still, every teammate asked about him echoed what Sepulveda said: Reed is Mr. Fun Guy during light moments, but that doesn’t take away from preparation, professionalism and intensity.
“In my position, if you put too much pressure on yourself, you’re not going to be here very long,” the 29-year-old Reed said. “Each day I go home, I evaluate myself ó obviously, people don’t know that. … I’m a perfectionist, I don’t care what the conditions are, how far it is, if I’m given the chance to kick the ball, I expect to make everything.”
The Steelers will expect him to make everything against Arizona in the Super Bowl, his second in four seasons. He didn’t attempt any field goals against Seattle three years ago, but he knows that’s not likely to happen in this game.
“I was good on the soccer field, but I didn’t realize I had this talent ó it was hidden,” Reed said. “I’m just glad enough people pressured me to try it.”
Since then, Reed has handled the considerable pressures of being a kicker as well as anybody.
“Your boss here isn’t putting so much pressure on you that you can’t perform,” Reed said. “We’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves so we can’t perform. It’s a great atmosphere, we joke and have a good time, but when it’s time to work, we work.”
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