The Pittsburgh Steelers just won their first postseason game since the 2010 AFC Championship game, having gone 0-3 in their next three playoff games since then. And they owe quite a bit of that change of luck to their first-year kicker, Chris Boswell, who had no business ever being on this team.
Boswell was excellent in his postseason debut, successfully putting all four field goal attempts clean through the uprights, albeit all from within 40 yards. It was the first time in team history that a rookie or first-year kicker has made four field goals in a postseason game.
Oh, and that also just so happened to include the 35-yard game-winning field goal kicked with 18 seconds left to play. His two first-half field goals were the only points put up by either team in the first half, and he added a third field goal before either side scored again.
Not only did he go four-for-four on field goals, scoring a total of 12 points during the game, he also had perhaps his best performance all season on kickoffs, sending all six into the end zone, four of which went for touchbacks. The two that were returned totaled 50 yards, and that included a return out to the 24 after the game-winning field goal that took up eight seconds and left the Bengals with just six seconds to run one desperation play.
And did I mention that there was no sane reason for Boswell to even be on the roster—perhaps any roster? The Steelers had to go through three place kickers starting with the opening preseason game before they finally hit on Boswell, who unquestionably has helped Pittsburgh get this far.
Not that we all don’t well know the story by now, but it all started when veteran Shaun Suisham tore his ACL attempted to make a tackle in the Hall of Fame game, ending his season and beginning a search for a new kicker.
The first contender was Garrett Hartley, another veteran who was on the market for a reason. He did well for the Steelers for his four preseason games, however, only to suffer a significant hamstring injury that sent him to injured reserve, and the front office looking for yet another solution.
That solution led to the team trading a sixth-round pick, and agreeing to take on $2 million of the remaining salary for Josh Scobee, who has been among the best big-leg kickers in recent years. But Scobee missed four of his 10 field goal attempts in the first four games, prompting his release. He later said that he played injured in the fourth game, in which he missed two field goals in the fourth quarter that cost the Steelers the game.
The Steelers held a tryout for kickers, and Boswell won the job, with Mike Tomlin expressing a fondness for his even-keeled demeanor. That proved to be a key element in his success this year, as he made 29 of 32 field goal attempt during the regular season, and now 33 of 37 overall. All with the calmness of a veteran, no matter how much pressure was placed on the situation—such as securing the first postseason victory for one of the most storied franchises in five years.