Newly signed Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Garrett Hartley knows so much about the highest highs of life, and knows equally well how quickly things can turn on a dime. As does Shaun Suisham, whose season ended at Sunday’s Hall of Fame game.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind the last 24 or 48 hours,” Hartley said, taking reporters’ questions for the first time in Latrobe. But whirlwind does seem to describe how things work with this guy. Sometimes positive, sometimes not, there always seems to be a little chaos in the background.
Many thought Hartley’s dismissal from the New Orleans Saints in December 2013 would be the last anyone would her from him. Lauded a hero for some huge Sundays including an amazing Super Bowl in 2009, he had moments – or entire games, more to the point – when he didn’t deliver throughout his years in the Big Easy.
“Things at the end of the day just didn't work out and that's the unfortunate part about this business. But you can't let that throw you off from your ultimate goal or how you view yourself. You just gotta keep working and get better.”
In spite of people calling time of death on his career, Hartley didn’t waver. He was not done yet, and he would fight for it.
“It's not the easiest thing in the world. Just having that mindset of coming out and knowing there are going to be other opportunities. Just keep training, keep the body in shape but at the same time doing other activities takes the mind off things,”
Having said that about his state of mind since he was released from a brief stint with the Cleveland Browns last season, it was not as simple when he got the midseason call to join them, a sudden midseason call for the second time in his career.
This time, it wasn’t a question of death of his career. With this plot twist, it was his unborn daughter’s death prior to her first breath. Cleveland reached out to him with two games left in the regular season, while Hartley and his family were mourning the loss of his daughter, seven months into his girlfriend’s pregnancy. In the same event, he nearly lost his girlfriend after she was given a 10 percent chance to live after her liver burst.
“Things have been a healing process. It's something that I don't think ever, you know, it will never leave you,” he said, adding that he’s ”got the best guardian angel up there,” in his daughter.
Hartley played with the Browns for the equivalent of a New York minute before being sliced from the team in March of this year, cut without a clear explanation of why he would be sent packing.
“I still don't know what happened there, but I know that things happen for a reason. You go 18 of 20 on the first week of snap-hold kicks and then you are let go that next Monday. There's the business side of things that are there that sometimes you don't understand, but that's OK,” he said.
Arriving yesterday in Latrobe after a quick morning tryout in Heinz Field, this is the third time around for catching on with a team under sudden circumstances. While last year’s whirlwind-like influence was somber, this season it comes in the form of his Sportsman Channel hunting show, “Southern Chaos”. According to Hartley, it’s not your typical “whisper in the woods” hunting show.
“We just wrapped up filming season two, which is airing now. And I'm going about that aspect and setting up life after football. But I've just been staying on the grind because I knew my journey wasn't over and just really believing in myself.”
While Hartley has had his ups and downs over his career, he likes his chances in Pittsburgh.
“This is not my first rodeo,” Hartley said, and has indicated that he is ready to follow the advice that was given to him regarding kicking in Heinz Field:
Sounds like a plan.
NOTES -- At practice, Hartley was 10 for his first 10 including a 49-yarder as the team raced onto the field against the clock. Hartley moved back to 56 and 57 yards and missed both. A final 47-yarder bounced off the crossbar and went through... The Steelers placed Suisam on IR and waived RB Cameron Stingily, who can be placed on IR if he clears waivers. They added WR David Nelson and RB Braylon Heard.