Does Steelers' PK fit hero's role?

DETROIT – Former punter Josh Miller once looked at then-teammate Jeff Reed's blown-straight-up hairstyle and said: "He'll grow out of that some day."

That was quite a statement for the wisecracking and oft-immature Miller to make, and as hypocritical as it may have seemed, it was also wrong. Reed hasn't grown up. Here he is at the Super Bowl with his hair standing straight up and screaming louder than ever.

"He can wear the earrings and the flaky haircut, but you'd better be a tough son of a gun on game day and he's all that," said Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coach Kevin Spencer.

As long as Reed keeps putting them through the goal posts, he can look any way he wants. And the man is in a zone. Reed has made his last nine kicks and is one reason for the Steelers' clutch play down the stretch this season.

Does Reed have a vision for the end game at this Super Bowl?

"You have to think positive," he said. "When I wasn't even a kicker I was a soccer player, and I'd envision kicking a game-winner in the Super Bowl. It's the biggest sporting event in the world. So I think about it, yeah, but at the same time I hope we win by 30 points. That's probably not realistic, but if it comes down to a game-winner I'm more than confident I'll kick it."

Reed booted a 33-yarder to beat the New York Jets in the playoffs last year. It was his third game-ending kick that season, and in his mind the best.

"When Jerome Bettis comes up to you in the locker room and hugs you so tight you can't get away, that's a great feeling," Reed said. "That's a Hall of Famer I'm playing with and he's giving me credit for that victory. I made a couple kicks in that game, but that one was the biggest kick of my career."

If a bigger kick awaits, the Steelers wouldn't want anyone out there but Reed.

Adam Vinatieri? Well, he's a proven big-game commodity, but Reed hasn't had the number of chances. Reed's statistics say he's an elite kicker on the rise:

* Reed has kicked eight consecutive postseason field goals.

* He's 27 for 32 this season, counting the playoffs, and he played almost half his games in the muck and wind of Heinz Field.

* He's 17 for 19 on the road this entire season. His only misses were a partially blocked 51-yarder at Green Bay and a 41-yarder at Indianapolis.

* He's missed only one kick under 46 yards this season.

* He finished the regular season seventh among kickers with 117 points, and only four of those above him had a better conversion percentage. Two of those four – Jay Feely and Mike Vanderjagt – gained infamy for missing late-game kicks.

It's almost safe to say Reed is moving into the elite of NFL kickers, haircut, earrings and all.

"Not yet," cautioned Spencer. "He's got to do it for a longer period of time."

In four NFL seasons, Reed has a career conversion percentage of .828. In the postseason, his percentage is .833.

Those numbers compare favorably to Vinatieri's. In 10 seasons, Vinatieri has made 81.9 percent of his regular-season kicks and 76 percent of his postseason kicks. Of course, he's won Super Bowls with last-minute kicks of 48 and 41 yards.

If Reed has one of his clutch moments Sunday, couldn't he rise into Vinatieri's class?

"It would put him in the right direction," Spencer said. "That doesn't mean I have any less admiration or respect or confidence in the kid, but you've got to do this thing for years on a consistent basis to, in my mind, be in the elite. He's done a good job, not quite a great job yet, but he's got to do it consistently for a longer time."

Reed agrees.

"I feel like I'm on the rise, but at the same time I feel I have a lot to prove," he said. "I mean, I'm not out to prove I'm a household name. I'm not out to prove I'm better than anybody. I'm out to prove I can stay in this league for awhile and you do that through consistency. I'm chasing guys like Vinatieri, and another guy who doesn't get much respect is Phil Dawson in Cleveland. It's also good to see Shayne Graham, who's a good kid, go to the Pro Bowl because he's come a long way to."

But wouldn't a big kick or two in the Super Bowl put Reed in that class?

"That's not the way I think," he said. "I just want to win."

And let history decide.

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