With the unfortunate news of Shaun Suisham’s departure, the torch was officially passed on to Chris Boswell. It almost goes without saying that, during his tenure in Pittsburgh, Suisham provided fans, players, and coaches with a comfort that often goes unnoticed. There are a number of teams in this league that would die to have consistency at the kicker position, and Suisham provided that each and every week.
Now the team turns to Boswell, and he played extremely well last year. So can Boswell prove to be the next Suisham? Only time will tell. And although we have a small sample size, what we do know is that his 2015 season was one that exceeded expectations.
You never know exactly what to expect when someone unknown is brought into a locker room and tasked with the job of being “the guy” at any given position. That’s what Boswell walked into last season after Suisham’s injury, Garrett Hartley’s injury, and Josh Scobee’s lack of production. But he answered the call nearly every time.
Boswell finished the season making 91% of his field goals, which translates into 29 conversions on 32 attempts. This put Boswell at 8th in the league in terms of accuracy. Not bad for a rookie. In fact, not bad for any kicker. It’s important to note as well that the highest accuracy was at 94%, which Boswell would have reached had he made just one more field goal. The margins really are that thin. But what I found interesting was not his makes from the 20-39 range (though those are perfect), but rather from 40 yards out or more.
On those deeper field goals, Boswell made 11 of 14. The 3 misses came from between 40-49 yards, and he was a perfect 2-2 from beyond 49. The 3 misses there definitely stands out, because they are the only 3 he missed all season long, and it brought his percentage down in the range quite a bit (20th in the NFL). But also, of the 38 kickers who played last year, only 5 scored more from beyond 40, and 4 of those had more attempts.
Perhaps more attempts would equate to better percentages for Boswell, although let’s hope the offense scores so he won’t have to. Obviously, the perfect rating from 50-59 is encouraging, though it was only 2 kicks, but it helped begin to establish the “clutch” factor that Boswell possesses.
When going through the tryouts to determine their next kicker, the coaches spoke about how important comfort was to their decisions. They wanted someone who didn’t appear to be rattled easily, and one who maintained the same form through various situations and places on the field. This is something they saw in Boswell. Any kicker good enough to be in this league can likely make all the kicks from elite distances. What separates them is the mental toughness, exhibiting calm consistently.
We definitely need to see more than just one season of work from Boswell, but last year was hopefully a taste of good things to come. I mean, he did kick some game winning field goals, one being in the most important moment of his young career.
That would be the wild-card round of the playoffs, when the Bengals’ self-destructed as Big Ben led the team down the field. They were in range for a 35 yard field goal that would almost secure them the win with just seconds remaining. Definitely not a deep kick, but definitely not a gimme either. Boswell splits the uprights and the Steelers live to fight another day. That’s big time for a rookie, especially one that was brought in late to fill a position that had been a liability.
It’s sad to see Suisham go, but the comfort of having Boswell in his place certainly softens the blow.