Pittsburgh Steelers placekicker Chris Boswell has been pretty non-existent around the press these past few weeks and during the 2019 OTAs, according to sources. It is probably due to the questions he might anticipate like, "What in the heck happened last season?" We have all had that question on our minds. Could Boswell be the key to the Steelers grabbing their seventh Super Bowl Championship?
Stepping back, in the last part of the 2018 regular season, Boswell suffered an injury that landed him on IR late in December. The Steelers brought in rookie kicker Matt McCrane, who was undrafted out of Kansas State. Even before the injury, however, Boswell was struggling.
Last season, Boswell was unsuccessful on five extra point attempts and seven field goal attempts. He was 13-for-20 (65 percent) on field goals last season. His issues were the most glaring when he missed two critical field goals against the Raiders; he slipped on the turf in Oakland during the Week 14 game on Dec. 9 when lining up for a 40-yard field goal as time expired in a 24-21 loss.
For me, the missed field goal in the very first game of last season versus the Cleveland Browns was the killer. With the sloppiest season opener I believe Pittsburgh has ever had (and against a team who had won one game in 32 tries), the tie was just embarrassing. But, going into overtime in the opener with the score notched at 21-21, and after two possessions where neither side scored, all the Steelers needed was a field goal to win. At 42 yards, it was missed by "Boz". That set the tone for one of the toughest kicking seasons the Steelers have endured in a while, and the team ending the season with a record of 9-6-1.
Now, fast-forward to 2019. The Steelers have lost some marquis players such as receiver Antonio Brown and long-lost running back Le'Veon Bell to other teams, but what is apparent is that the team seems to have turned a page, are showing they have each other's backs, not only on the field during OTAs but also when now speaking about each other in interviews.
Boswell finally gave an on-the-field interview after voluntary team practices this past Tuesday. He did get those questions tossed at him about last season but artfully dodged them. He did not comment on any injury status but did say that he feels great and that he is working hard to get that "muscle memory" back for a successful season (as he had in 2017). No matter how many ways the media asked, the typically stoic Boswell did not bite on what could be turned into clickbait headlines. He did say, "I am here to make kicks and whenever that is, first quarter, fourth quarter or OT, that's all I am here for".
Boswell and Matthew Wright were together at OTAs this month, with McCrane released prior to rookie minicamp, but the Steelers - even after enduring a rough 2018 season - appear to be sticking with Boswell at this time. Former Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham was even in attendance to work with Boswell in a similar way he had done during last season.
Boswell is only removed from making those team-record 35 field goals in 2017 by a few regular season months. That number includes three consecutive game-winning field goals.
The fact that the team is sticking with him, for now, after going from 92% accuracy down to 65% last season, says a lot about the faith Mike Tomlin has in Chris as the team's placekicker. The front office, however, will wait to pay him his roster bonus of $2 million until after the last pre-season game of 2019 according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac.
Steelers told K Chris Boswell they would delay his $2 million roster bonus, which was due in mid-March, till after the final preseason game in Carolina. If Boswell didn't agree, they would have cut him. Steelers want to see more before deciding to give him a chance at redemption
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) May 29, 2019
Ed Bouchette, of The Athletic, confirmed that Boswell was in agreement with the deal the team offered.
An average kicking game will not take you to the playoffs in this league let alone a division title in the AFC North. But the Steelers do not have their eye on simply a division title or even a conference title. Their end game has always been that seventh Lombardi Trophy.
After the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl last season, again, they tied the Steelers for six Super Bowl wins. The most in league history by any team was six, held by the Steelers for many years. To get to the seventh, one of the Steelers' MVPs needs to be their kicker.
Every year there will be games where there is a three-point or even a one-point swing that could make the difference between a win or loss. If Boswell, as he believes he has, "gotten to the bottom of what went wrong" then we could see him return as "The Wizard of Boz". But we need to see his accuracy hit 90% or better in pre-season to be confident that magic will happen in the regular season.
Chris Boswell speaks about focusing on his next kick, his approach to the 2019 season and more following today's OTA. pic.twitter.com/fM8bxSYpI0
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 28, 2019
I agree with Chris's own words, "I'm focused on my next kick". Take that focus and earn that $2 million bonus Chris! We need you in our run for #7.