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Steelers suddenly searching for a kicker

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LATROBE, Pa. — The Pittsburgh Steelers almost always bring two kickers to camp. This year, they brought only one, and now they are paying the price.

Shaun Suisham, an 11-year veteran who is the most accurate kicker in team history, has what head coach Mike Tomlin called a significant left knee injury. It happened while he tried to make a tackle on the second-half kickoff of their 14-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game.

Multiple media outlets reported Monday that Suisham will undergo surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and he likely will be placed on injured reserve.

Tomlin rested all kinds of veterans in the first of five preseason games for Pittsburgh this year, but since Suisham was the only kicker, he had to kick. Had there been another kicker in camp, Tomlin could have held Suisham, 33, out of the game as well.

Instead, the Steelers now must find another kicker.

Suisham, who signed a four-year contract before the 2014 season, made 59 of 64 field-goal attempts over the past two seasons and is Pittsburgh’s career field-goal-percentage leader.

While not much went right for the Steelers against the Vikings, not much was expected. Tomlin held out quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and three All-Pros on offense, running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown and center Maurkice Pouncey. Backup halfback DeAngelo Williams did not play, nor did injured No. 3 Josh Harris. The top four wide receivers on the depth chart did not dress for one reason or another.

Not playing on defense: starting safeties Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas, outside linebackers Jarvis Jones and James Harrison and starting cornerback Cortez Allen.

Landry Jones started at quarterback, and the third-year No. 3 followed up his first two weeks of improving training camp practices with a decent performance under circumstances in which he had no weapons around him. He threw accurately and decisively, although Tomlin gave him no ringing endorsements.

“I just wanted to see a winning performance,” the coach said. “We come into these situations to win. He has room for improvement, obviously some of the game-management things, delay of game, we can’t have.”

Jones, a fourth-round draft pick from Oklahoma in 2013, did not pull on a uniform in a regular-season or playoff game through his first two years. With backup Bruce Gradkowski on the physically unable to perform list due to “shoulder fatigue,” Jones has had more time in camp with both the first and second teams. This is seen as an important camp for him, and he is taking advantage of it.

The Steelers next play at Jacksonville on Friday night, and Jones should get a good look again because Gradkowski won’t play and Roethlisberger likely will play only a series or two.

–The Steelers were chosen to play in the Hall of Fame Game because Jerome Bettis was inducted over the weekend. Many of his former teammates returned for that ceremony, and the entire team greeted him Sunday night before the game in Canton, Ohio.

“It’s just beautiful to be a part of it,” Pro Bowl linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “That’s part of the NFL history. Being a Hall of Famer is awesome, and I feel that we can share that with him. We all know what he did in his career, and it’s an awesome thing.”

–Dri Archer returned one kickoff 35 yards and looked good doing so. Drafted in the third round last year, the little halfback/receiver did little as a rookie and ultimately was benched as a kickoff returner. He also is trying to return punts, something he never did in college.

Archer looked good running and receiving Sunday, producing a combined 57 yards.

“That was definitely big, to be able to get a return out past the 30,” Archer said. “I feel like I made a couple plays.”


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