Steady Suisham enjoying career year for Steelers

Steady Suisham enjoying career year for Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) When Shaun Suisham steps onto the field with the game on the line, the Pittsburgh Steelers kicker doesn't think about the packed stadium or the millions watching at home on TV. He doesn't worry about the way the wind is blowing or if holder Drew Butler is going to get the laces right.

Instead, Suisham thinks about the sacrifices made by the other 44 players dressed in black-and-gold just so the affable 30-year-old Canadian could step in and be the hero.

``He knows how much work the other guys put into the game to that point and it's great to be able to put a win on top of it for everybody,'' long snapper Greg Warren said.

Something Suisham has gotten pretty good at this fall. He leads the NFL in field goal percentage, making 24 of 25 kicks, and has already drilled three game-winners, including a 42-yarder last Sunday at the gun to beat rival Baltimore on the road.

It's rarified air for any kicker, though you wouldn't know it by talking to Suisham. Asked what it means to be in the midst of a career year in a line of work where you're only as good as your next kick, and all Suisham does is shrug his shoulders.

``It's my job,'' he said.

One that he's gotten pretty good at. While Suisham doesn't have the strongest leg in the league - his range is career-long is a relatively modest 52 yards - at the moment he'll happily settle for the most accurate kicker in the game.

``He's in a zone right now,'' Warren said.

The Steelers (7-5) have needed him to be in a season where there has been little wiggle room. Only three of Pittsburgh's dozen games have been decided by more than a touchdown, and Suisham's right foot has provided the difference in victories over Philadelphia, Kansas City and the Ravens.

The kicks against the Eagles (34 yards) and Chiefs (23 yards) were relative gimmes. Baltimore, however, proved a little trickier. Yet his boot from the right hashmark was good all the way and for once the normally reserved Suisham decided to celebrate a little bit, giving a fist pump while getting mobbed by his teammates.

It was a rare show of emotion from a player who has learned to take emotion out of the equation. It's no easy task in one of the most stressful and disposable positions in the game.

Suisham, however, has found a sweet spot this fall after a bumpy 2011 in which he made just 74 percent (23 of 31) of his kicks. He had to beat out Dan Hrapmann in training camp over the summer and barring a case of the shanks he'll easily set a personal best in field goals made and field goal percentage.

Not bad for a player who came into the league a little wide-eyed in 2005 and spent the first five seasons of his career bouncing back and forth between Dallas and Washington.

``He's come a long way,'' said Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was an assistant with the Cowboys during Suisham's brief stints in Dallas in 2005 and 2006. ``You can see that he's developed into a heck of a kicker. When those young kickers come into the league, especially you're in Dallas, you're coming in to fill in for somebody that didn't pass the test ... that's a lot of pressure.''

Something Suisham hasn't gotten used to in Pittsburgh. He provided a steadying presence at the position after replacing an erratic Jeff Reed midway through the 2010 season, making all but one of his 15 field goal attempts.

Things were shakier in the playoffs, where Suisham missed a pair of kicks, including a 52-yarder in the third quarter of a 31-25 loss to Green Bay in the Super Bowl.

Like most perfectionists, it's the failures that tend to weigh on Suisham's mind more than the success. Mention how accurate he's been this year and Suisham notes the one miss - a 54-yarder with 54 seconds remaining that would have given the Steelers the lead in a game they ended up losing 26-23 to Tennessee on Oct. 11.

``I should have made it,'' Suisham said.

He hasn't missed since, one of the main reasons Pittsburgh heads into Sunday's game against San Diego (4-8) in the hunt for a third straight playoff berth.

``It's very comforting for everybody involved when you have a kicker you can count on,'' Haley said.

Even if Suisham takes nothing for granted, not even the prospect of making his first Pro Bowl. That would put him in elite company and to be honest, he'd rather not think about it.

``I don't know what I consider myself,'' Suisham said. ``I'm just trying to make every kick they ask me to kick. I consider myself the best kicker on this team.''


NOTES: Steelers S Troy Polamalu sat out a second straight practice on Thursday, though it was not injury related. Polamalu has missed nine games this season due to a strained right calf. He is expected to play against the Chargers ... S Ryan Clark (hip), LB LaMarr Woodley (ankle) and P Drew Butler (illness) also missed practice ... WRs Mike Wallace (knee), Antonio Brown (ankle) and Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) practiced Thursday, as did T Willie Colon (knee).


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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.


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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.


Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.


Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.


Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.


Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.