Jeff Reed

Jeff Reed

The 2006 NFL playoffs start with wildcard weekend this coming weekend. In one of the AFC games the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to take on their divisional foe the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Field goals are more important in the playoffs and Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed might be called upon once more to make a game winning kick this weekend.

Listen to the Jeff Reed interview:

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Chris Yandek: Do you think this team was surprised the Detroit Lions gave everything they had as you guys hold on for the 35-21 win and get the last AFC wildcard spot, and what was the locker room like after the game?

Jeff Reed: “When you make the playoffs it’s always a big accomplishment, no matter who you beat or who you lost to. It’s a battle all year. Even the teams with the records that aren’t great put up a good effort as you saw of Detroit. We knew going into the game that they wanted to be a spoiler team. Obviously it was their last game and they are playing for their jobs. They are not just going to lay down and say ok you guys can go to the playoffs. They want to be the team that says we were the ones that didn’t let them get into the playoffs. We were excited of course. There was a point where we were 7-5. We realized it was do or die every game. The next four regular season games were playoff games. We knew it was going to be really tough.”

CY: In week seven this 2005 NFL season the Pittsburgh Steelers had a good offensive performance and game beating the Cincinnati Bengals 27-13. Do you feel confident going into this weekend’s playoff game knowing that you guys can win there and beat this Cincinnati Bengals team and get to the divisional playoff round?

JR: “Yes. We are a great team on the road. Sometimes we are better on the road than at home. I think there is a greater focus. When odds and adversity are against us we seem to rise under those occasions instead of buckle under pressure. We know we can win there. If you sit there and look at the history, it says we haven’t won a playoff game on the road. It’s a different team and different situation. You can’t really rely on the past. We have won there. We know we are a good team. We are going to give Cincinnati all they want.”

CY: You’ve been there a handful of times these last few seasons. What are the kicking conditions usually like at Paul Brown Field when you go to play the Bengals?

JR: “It’s not real whipping winds. The footing is nice because they have the new field turf, which they had last year as well. When I first played there it was a sandy and muddy type of field. It’s a stiff wind. It’s not a wind that’s going to knock the ball down as far as distance, but I don’t have a problem kicking there. As far as what’s ideal for kickers, usually a dome is ideal and then after that anything with footing which is field turf is perfect. I think the kicking game will take a huge part into it, but as far as how hard it will be to kick there will depend on the game time conditions. It’s different every time I have played there.”

CY: How much more pressure do you think is on yourself knowing one kick can make a difference and this is the playoffs just not a regular season game?

JR: “I think we all realize it’s do or die. I focus on an extra point like I do for every single game throughout the year. I don’t put any more pressure on myself. No one expects anything more out of me except doing your job the best you can.”

CY: Why do you think it’s been so hard for NFL kickers in general to make field goals from between less than 30 and between 30 and 40 yards this 2005 NFL season?

JR: “I don’t know. Special teams coach for the New Orleans Saints Al Everest told me when I first got in the league that if you make every kick under 43 yards you’ll be successful in the league and you will be around for a long time. The kicks between 30 and 40 can bite you. Anytime your team gets inside the 20 you have to come up with points especially if it comes to a field goal. It can be tough at times because you never know how the wind is. Anytime you get in the red zone you have to come away with points in this league. Those three points really come back to help you in the end.”

CY: In the 2005 NFL divisional playoff game against the New York Jets you kicked the winning field goal in over time as the Steelers won 20-17. How did it feel to see former New York Jets kicker Doug Brien miss a few kicks and you get a chance to win the game for your team?

JR: “If he wasn’t playing against us I would feel for him. Since it was against us it was great because it kept us alive. He had tougher kicks than myself. A 33 yard field goal is a tough kick, but he had a 43 he just missed and the 47 he just missed off the upright. He’s always been a great kicker. He’s had a long career. It’s tough to see because us kickers are all in the same boat. We are the lowest guys on the totem pole. We are there for the other guy. When it comes down to a game winner against my team I don’t want him to make it. You can call it a so called fraternity. It was one of the best feelings in the world. I have hit some other game winners. Knowing that you knock a team out and you keep going and there are only a handful of teams in the playoffs is a great feeling.”

CY: How are the reactions from Bill Cowher different when you make one compared to missing a crucial field goal?

JR: “When you make one he kind of expects you to make it no matter what the distance is. He lets you know. He praises you. He’s not just negative. He’s a players’ coach. He is real positive, but if you miss one he will let you know. Not that you need to know, but he will let you know because that’s his role as a coach. He’s real intense, but he’s not as mean as he looks on TV. In the heat of battle he forgets half the stuff he says on the sidelines.”

CY: Pittsburgh is one of the toughest places to kick in the NFL. What if anything do you need to do differently when kicking into the tough winds at Heinz field?

JR: “It depends on the difference of the kick. I have been in games where the flags aren’t really in awe, but on the field there is stiff wind and you have to lower your trajectory a little bit. I have also been in games where the uprights are moving and you almost have to aim outside the upright depending on the distance of the kick for it to make it. It’s a game to game thing here. It could be 85 degrees and 30 mile a hour winds and you’re sitting there thinking the temperature is great, but I would rather kick in a cold day. When it’s cold you lose distance anyway. It’s tough. It’s a challenge every week. You never know what I am going to get it. Everyone says how do you figure out this and that at Heinz Field? I really haven’t figured it out. I don’t think I will. Sometimes the field is in great shape. Sometimes it’s slippery. Sometimes it’s muddy. You never know what you are going to get when you play our games on the field. Not that the field is bad, but a lot of games are played on it. The footing is affected by that.”

CY: How is Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger looking in practice this week throwing the football with his injured thumb still?

JR: “I think it’s the best he’s felt in a while. Everyone is banged up at this point, even myself. He’s fine. He’s in good spirits. He’s taking care of his arm this year. He said it felt a little weak last year in the playoffs, but he’s good to go.”

CY: Do you feel as much a part of the team even though you are only on the field for a handful of plays a game?

JR: “Oh yeah. That comes with the kind of person you are. I am what you call a so called school class clown. I fit in well. We have a handful of guys on the team that are like that. Everyone seems to have good spirits. Everyone is laughing. When you are at practice it’s not a joke. When you are a taking a break and the defense is practicing the offense is messing around. He’s real lenient in practice. Coach lets you have fun. If you workout with the team and run sprints with the team and you are around when they are around they see you working and there is a lot more respect there.”

CY: What did you think of New England Patriots Quarterback Doug Flutie’s drop kick?

JR: “I did one in practice today saying that’s crazy because I’ve never seen that. Those guys do that in practice messing around. I did it today. It worked out for me. It’s really impressive doing that under pressure having guys rush you. He was the first guy in many years to do it. Pretty impressive.”

CY: If you get past this week you would play the Indianapolis Colts. Last time out you struggled against these guys in week 12. I know you got to beat the Cincinnati Bengals first, but do you think this team would be more ready again to play them a second time around in the RCA Dome in front of that crowd?

JR: “Yea. It would be another great challenge. Peyton runs that offense and the defense is very fast. Those guys are a great team. Everyone is counting them out because they had a couple of bad showings. San Diego beat them at the RCA Dome. Then they went to Seattle and lost. They are a great team. Everybody knows it. They are the best team in the NFL. Our focus is on Cincinnati. That’s when stuff backfires on you.”

CY: Finally, what do you want to accomplish the rest of your NFL career as a kicker?

JR: “The number one goal is to win a Super Bowl. That’s the number one goal in this business. Obviously I want to make the Pro Bowl, but before anything I want to win. I want to be on a winning team. I want to make the playoffs. I want to win a Super Bowl. I want to be an 80 percent kicker whether it’s a season or all time. Couple years ago I had an off year below 75 percent. You got to make up for the kicks you miss at Heinz Field on the road. If worse comes to worse keep fighting in this league. Not many people have a job out there that they truly love.”

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