The following is another in a series that picks a Steelers All-Modern Era Team. Players were considered based on having careers with the Steelers from 1992 until the present. The All-Modern Era team is made up of 26 players – 11 on offense, 11 on defense, and four specialists.
The Steelers' history of special teams play is an ugly one, filled with incompetence by players and poor decisions by coaches, with lowlights coming in the 1972 and 2001 AFC Championship games, both of which ended with the Steelers missing a chance to play in a Super Bowl at least in part because of ineptitude on special teams. In the 1972 AFC Championship, the Steelers lost contain on Dolphins punter Larry Seiple, who ran 37 yards to set up an early touchdown in a game undefeated Miami would win by 21-17. Then in the 2001 AFC Championship, the Patriots returned a punt for a touchdown and blocked a field goal and returned that for a touchdown as well in a game the Steelers would lose, 24-17.
But there will be other days to go into detail about those and the other special teams horror stories. This is an occasion to celebrate the best the Steelers have offered since 1992 at the positions of placekicker, punter, long-snapper, and returner.
Check out the greatest photos of Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed.
Without further ado, the choices for this Modern Era team are Jeff Reed, Josh Miller, Greg Warren, and Antwaan Randle El.
Jeff Reed is the pick as the placekicker for two reasons. He didn't allow Heinz Field to be a distraction – at least not until his career was ending – and he was 16-for-18 (88.9 percent) in the playoffs, and the only two misses came in his rookie season of 2002.
After prevailing in a late-season tryout when Todd Peterson washed out in 2002, Reed was solid through the 2009 season. Reed was 3-for-3 during the Steelers run to the Super Bowl XL championship, and he was 5-for-5 during the team's run to the Super Bowl XLIII championship.
For his career with the Steelers, Reed converted 204-of-249 attempts for a percentage of 81.9.
Josh Miller gets the nod as the punter after spending eight seasons with the team (1996-2003) and averaging 42.9 yards over that span. The fact Miller was capable for a longer period than any other punter during the Modern Era was the difference for him.
The choice at long-snapper is Greg Warren, who will be entering his 11th season with the Steelers in 2015. With the exception of two seasons that ended prematurely for him as the result of ACL injuries, Warren has been a long-term reliable option at a position that's only noticed in the event of a disaster.
Check out the greatest photos of Pittsburgh Steelers kick returner / wide reciever Antwaan Randle El.
Antwaan Randle El is the returner because he was adept at handling both punts and kickoffs. In five seasons with the Steelers, Randle El returned four punts for touchdowns and one kickoff for a touchdown. He added another punt return for a touchdown in the playoffs, and his career punt return average in the playoffs was better than his career average during the regular season (11.1-9.1)
OTHERS TO CONSIDER
When the Steelers' Modern Era began, GARY ANDERSON was the placekicker, but his time with the team ended following the 1994 season when the sides couldn't come to an agreement on a new contract. The man who followed Anderson was veteran NORM JOHNSON, who promptly set franchise records with 34 field goals and 141 points in 1995, his first season with the team. Johnson converted 82.7 percent of his field goals during four seasons with the Steelers, and after he turned 38 the team spent a seventh-round draft pick on KRIS BROWN in 1999.
Brown asked the Steelers not to match an offer he got as a restricted free agent from the Houston Texans following the 2001 season, and his reasons for wanting to leave were equal parts homesickness and fear of Heinz Field.
SHAUN SUISHAM replaced Reed midway through the 2010 season and still holds the job today. In the three seasons from 2012-14, Suisham was 56-for-58 (96.6 percent) between 30-49 yards, and he isn't intimidated by Heinz Field. Reed got the nod over Suisham because of his performance in the playoffs, but the Steelers haven't given Suisham many opportunities in the postseason since he joined the team.
The other punters considered were MARK ROYALS and CHRIS GARDOCKI. Royals spent three seasons with the team and averaged 41.5 yards per punt, while Gardocki's average during his three seasons with the Steelers was 42.1.
TOMORROW: Defensive line