When the Pittsburgh Steelers travel west next week to take on the San Diego Chargers, they will be doing so as they try to break in a first-year kick with no prior regular season NFL experience, with a backup quarterback, going up against a defense that has been in the top 10 through the first quarter of the season in red zone defense.
The long and short of all this is that the young Chris Boswell figures to play into the Steelers’ fortunes, or misfortunes, in this westward adventure, as a variety of factors have conspired to make Pittsburgh more likely to have to settle for more field goal attempts.
Over the course of the first four game, the Chargers rank ninth in the league in red zone defense, giving up a touchdown only 50 percent of the time opponents breach their 20-yard line. That stat is skewed higher from the first game of the season.
Over the last three games, the total is a bit lower at 45 percent efficiency, allowing just one of four red zone trips in the last game to finish in the end zone. There’s also the fact that they only allow 40 percent of red zone trips in San Diego to go for six points.
The Steelers, meanwhile, have had mixed success on offense in the red zone this season. They only have 11 offensive touchdowns on the year versus 10 field goal attempts, to give an indication, although those numbers obviously are not exclusive to work in the red zone.
Add in the fact that the team is without Ben Roethlisberger, and on the road, where they proved to struggle even with the Pro Bowl quarterback in the red zone last season, and we figure to have a night in which the Steelers are going to have a hard time getting the ball into the end zone.
This is in spite of the fact that the Chargers are currently giving up the fourth-most points per game in the league at 27.5 points per game. For comparison’s sake, the Steelers are giving up 18.8 points per game, which ranks them eighth in the league, having yet to give up 30 or more points.
But the Chargers’ numbers also include two interceptions returned for touchdowns, which is obviously not a reflection on their defense, nor opposing offenses’ ability to score on said defense. Their points per game drops down to 24 when factoring in defensive touchdowns allowed.
The Steelers felt as though they could no longer trust kicker Josh Scobee to go out there and make kicks, which is something that he has done, with more success than not in most years, for over a decade.
Boswell is the player that they settle on to replace him, beating out two other kickers brought in for tryouts, but the fact remains that the next field goal attempt that he has in a regular season game will be his first, and he figures to have a big test ahead of him on Monday night.