You may have heard by now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have made their second trade of the season yesterday, sending a sixth-round pick over to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for veteran kicker Josh Scobee. Trades are rare enough for the Steelers—at least in the modern era—but two in one season is virtually unheard of.
Of course, both trades were spurred on by injuries, with Scobee set to replace Garrett Hartley, who was already brought in to replace Shaun Suisham, who has been the Steelers’ kicker since the middle of the 2010 season, and has since then become among the most accurate field goal kickers in the league—and the most accurate in team history.
Suisham suffered a torn ACL as he attempted to make a tackle in the Steelers’ preseason opening game, and was thus lost for the season. In the meantime, Scobee has started 121 straight games dating back to the 2007 season.
That season is the only year in which Scobee missed time. He tore his quad during pre-game warmups, but played anyway, making his one short field goal attempt and converting an extra point, though the kickoff duties were handled by punter Adam Podlesh, a name familiar to the readers of this site.
Scobee further aggravated his quad injury and proceeded to miss the next eight games as a result, but returned later in the year to make 12 of 13 field goals in the regular season (missing from 46 yards out), and 3-for-3 in the postseason, which included the game winner in the Wildcard matchup against the Steelers in Mike Tomlin’s first season as head coach.
Scobee also suffered a quad injury in the preseason last year, but was able to return for the first game of the regular season. That can no longer be said of Suisham, though his knee injury occurred to his non-kicking leg.
Though it’s far too early to speculate with much sincerity, let alone evidence, it is possible that the Steelers may consider carrying on with the 33-year-old Scobee following this season rather than Suisham, who will turn 34 this year.
In order for that to happen, however, the veteran will have to put on a show and show the Steelers that he can accomplish things that Suisham could not, while retaining Suisham’s strengths.
Suisham has a reputation for lacking a strong leg, as exhibited by the fact that the Steelers rarely give him the opportunity to attempt field goals beyond 50 yards, in addition to the fact that he has consistently ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of touchback ratio on kickoffs.
Scobee, on the other hand, is known for just the opposite, converting touchbacks at a consistently high rate, and having a number of long field goals to his name. To be specific, he has converted 26 of 42 field goal attempts of at least 50 yards, good for 62 percent, which is certainly not bad for that range.
If and only if Scobee can show the Steelers what they didn’t even know what they were missing, he may find that his tenure in Pittsburgh is more than just a one-year rental. The team is obviously in no hurry to part ways with Suisham, who still has three years left on his contract following this season.
Should the Steelers release Suisham next year, it would create a dead cap charge of $1.71 million, though it would also free up $1.26 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap. Scobee is, of course, in the final year of his contract.