Justin Tucker might be the best kicker in NFL history — and he almost joined the Steelers before signing with the Ravens in 2012.
ESPN recently released an in-depth look at Tucker's rise to greatness, starting with going undrafted out of the University of Texas and ending with becoming a key contributor for the Ravens.
Before signing with Baltimore, however, Tucker fielded a call from the Steelers. After an "outstanding" rookie minicamp, Ravens doctors failed Tucker's physical for a back issue. This opened the door for others to swoop in, as he could not officially sign with the Ravens until he was cleared.
Tucker says he was "basically at the mercy of the docs" at this point. That's where the Steelers enter the story.
"In the meantime, I got a couple of phone calls from other teams because they heard I had done pretty well at Ravens rookie minicamp," Tucker says. "The one team that called with something substantive was the Pittsburgh Steelers."
According to Tucker, the Steelers requested a workout and intended to throw Tucker into the mix. At the time, Shaun Suisham held down the Steelers' starting kicker position, but he was coming off a 2011 campaign in which he made just 23 of 31 kicks (74.2 percent) with a long of 51. (Suisham would bounce back and make 28 of 31 kicks — 90.3 percent — in 2012, and also go above 90 percent in 2013 and 2014, but the Steelers couldn't have known that at the time.)
"They wanted to book me on a flight," Tucker continued. "I don’t know why, [but] I told the guy on the phone, 'I appreciate the offer to come up and work out, but I am currently waiting on another opportunity. Can you give me a little bit of time and I will certainly call you back to let you know?' He said, 'You have 48 hours.' So, 48 hours go by, and I don’t hear anything from anybody. I’m thinking I totally ended my own NFL career before it even got started."
As it played out, Tucker did not, in fact, end his career. Instead, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh intervened.
"I put on my doctor’s hat and overruled the doctors," Harbaugh says in the article. "I think it turned out pretty well."
"Pretty well" is an understatement. Tucker is a three-time first-team All-Pro player, a Super Bowl champion and undoubtedly one of the best to ever kick in the NFL.
Since 2016, Tucker is — buckle up — 75 for 79 in field goals, a 95 percent clip. In 2016 specifically, Tucker went 38 for 39, his only miss being a blocked kick that was returned for a touchdown. Digging deeper into the stats, Tucker is 115 for his past 121 kicks, with the misses being:
• The aforementioned blocked field goal
• A 62-yard attempt
• A 58-yard attempt
• Another blocked field goal
• A 54-yard attempt
• A 66-yard attempt
So yeah. Tucker is pretty good.
And the Steelers almost had him.
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