Based on his stellar performance last season, it’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell not beating out veteran Shaun Suisham for the job this year during training camp. With that said, Boswell, who joined the Steelers last year during Week 5 of the 2015 season, isn’t taking anything for granted right now and especially being as he will be battling Suisham one-on-one this year at Latrobe.
“Just because I did what I did last year, you can’t forget what (Suisham) has done for the past 10 years of his career,” Boswell said in a recent interview with Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s been one of the best kickers in the league for a long time, so who am I to come to in here and have an upper hand on him. I don’t.”
If not for Suisham suffering a serious knee injury last year during the Steelers first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, there’s a good chance none of us would even know who Boswell is. In fact, after Suisham was lost for the remainder of the season to a knee injury, the Steelers went through two more veteran kickers before ultimately signing Boswell, who up until that point had only seen action in six different preseason games with the Houston Texans and New York Giants.
Despite all of the pressure that was involved with becoming a regular kicker for the Steelers, Boswell performed very well in 2015 and he ended the regular season having made 29 of his 32 field goal attempts and 26 of his 27 extra-point attempts. While solid, Boswell did admit recently that his first season in the league included him overcoming some challenges.
“It was my first season, and it was a lot longer than I was used to and I was a lot more tired than I was used to,” Boswell said. “I started kicking in February or March, so I was basically kicking for a full year without stopping. That is why I started to wear down.”
Even though Suisham has reportedly yet to resume kicking during the team’s OTA practices as he puts the finishing touches on his rehab, Boswell knows the veteran will be ready to push him when the team arrives at Latrobe later on this summer.
“Competition is only going to make both of us better,” Boswell told Kaboly. “We will see what happens and it will fall the way it is supposed to. I am not going to run away from competition. I am going to love it.”
Assuming Boswell is able to pick up where he left off last year, the Steelers will likely have no choice but to finally part ways with Suisham, who has been the Steelers kicker since midway through the 2010 season. With that, the hope is that Suisham performs well enough during the preseason that the Steelers can ultimately trade him for a late-round draft pick prior to the final roster cuts being made.
Parting ways with Suisham in any form or fashion would ultimately save the Steelers $1.875 million in real salary cap space in 2016 as that is the difference between the base salaries that their two kickers are currently scheduled to earn. The Steelers, however, would incur an additional dead money charge of $2.206 million in 2017 as part of them either releasing or trading Suisham later on this offseason.
As for Boswell, while he’s currently entering the final year of his current contract with the Steelers, he can easily be retained for the following two seasons being as he’ll be an exclusive rights free agent in 2017 and a restricted free agent the following year. Right now, however, all Boswell is concerned about is 2016 and that’s certainly the right thing for him to do.
“I don’t pay attention to any of the contract talk,” Boswell said. “The better kicker will win no matter how much money somebody makes. I just have to be myself and stick to what I am doing.”