Ravens kicker Justin Tucker knows it will come up at some point during Sunday’s primetime broadcast. As either the Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers move into field-goal range, NBC announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will point out that Heinz Field is one of the hardest places to kick in the league.
Tucker, however, makes no such distinction.
“Anywhere where you’re playing outside in December, on a grass surface, it adds a degree of difficulty,” he said Thursday. “But we’ve done a very good job as a field goal unit and a special teams in managing that.”
Tucker will take the field Sunday with the best field-goal percentage in Heinz Field history among kickers with at least 13 attempts. In his career, Tucker has made 13-of-14 field-goal attempts in Pittsburgh for a 92.9 success rate. His only miss at Heinz Field came in his first trip as a rookie in 2012 as he was wide right from 41 yards. Since then, he’s made 12 consecutive attempts.
“At the end of the day, it’s a good feeling to make kicks regardless of where you’re making them, regardless of the venue. That said, there is something, I’ll say, just a little more special about making kicks at Heinz Field,” said Tucker, who has made 26 of his 29 field-goal attempts this season. “It’s just a great environment. We tend to play games close. We know those points will matter. It’s always fun to be a part of those games where you’re playing a division rival. Ravens-Steelers, it’s one of the best rivalries in sports.”
Since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the winds coming off the nearby Allegheny River and a traditionally worn playing surface, especially this late in the season, has wreaked havoc on kickers. The longest kick ever made at the stadium is 53 yards, a feat matched last month by Steelers kicker Chris Boswell on the game winner of a 31-28 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Tucker said he will head out to the field Sunday evening and go through his normal pre-game routine, gathering all the necessary “data” about the weather and field conditions. In other words, it will be business as usual for the Ravens’ highly-successful kicking battery.
“Kicking anywhere this time of the year in the North is a challenge, just because of the field conditions, typically. Also, the temperature, the wind and all of those things affect kicking,” said Jerry Rosburg, Ravens associate head coach and special teams coordinator. “We try to do the best we can every year to prepare for this time of the year to be able to kick efficiently in Baltimore and in Pittsburgh and in Cleveland and Cincinnati – places like this. In Pittsburgh, specifically, it’s all of those things combined. You never know what you’re going to get until you get to the stadium “