Two days after suffering a three-point overtime loss in a game in which kicker Josh Scobee missed a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter, the Pittsburgh Steelers did was many, perhaps most, expected that they would, releasing the veteran kicker and replacing him with another body.
There appears to be a minority who view this move as an overreaction to Scobee’s having missed four of 10 field goal attempts in four games, in addition to an extra point attempt, though a few of his makes were also barely good. To his credit, the kick coverage unit has been very good, even when not registering touchbacks, which he often does.
But if this season has shown us anything, it’s that kicking is not nearly as automatic as some tried to make it sound on two occasions this offseason—first when discussing the new extra point spot from the 15-yard line, and later when the Steelers were looking to replace Shaun Suisham.
Many argued that moving the extra point attempt back would be negligible in its effect, but there have been a number of missed attempts already this season, greater than likely the league even anticipated when making the rule change.
Some tried to undersell Suisham’s impressive consistency from 30 to 49 yards over the course of the past few seasons, qualifying his accuracy with a number of caveats, but the Steelers though that they found a suitable replacement in Scobee, and they were wrong.
Scobee has no doubt had success in his career, and some of his struggles, for example, from last season, can be attributed to a couple of blocks, but he has no excuses for his performance in Pittsburgh.
Whether it is a difficulty in adjusting to a cold-weather environment after spending his career in Jacksonville, or just a new landscape altogether after having had a stable home for so long, Scobee has, if anything, made himself unreliable, and that is the last thing that this Ben Roethlisberger-less offense can handle right now.
The Steelers simply cannot field a team that they cannot trust to hit even easy field goals, especially when they are undermanned and even less likely to be able to capitalize with touchdowns inside the red zone. You can’t take those three points off the board.
This was no doubt a difficult decision to make, but ultimately, I believe, one that was fair. When a kicker gets the mental ‘yips’, so to speak, it is often difficult for them to recover and regain that internal rhythm that makes their mechanics run like clockwork. Scobee clearly has something askew in his process at the moment, and the Steelers can’t be patient in allowing him to sort it out.
Whether or not new signing Chris Boswell, who has never played in an NFL game, proves to be more reliable remains to be seen, but I struggle to criticize the release. The fact that they remain on the hook for Scobee’s $2.5 million salary and a sixth-round draft pick that they traded to acquire him shows that they did not take pulling the trigger lightly, so they obviously felt strongly about the need to move on.