With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Chris Boswell.
Or, more specifically, show me you can do it again. Because now you have to. With the Steelers releasing veteran Shaun Suisham with a failed physical stemming from what appears to be a career-ending ACL injury last year, they now have no choice but to rely upon Boswell, whom they essentially stumbled upon last season.
To be sure, he has a wonderful first season, certainly better than anybody could have fairly anticipated. He successfully made 29 of his 32 regular season field goal attempts—though he did miss one extra point attempt as well—and he then proceeded to connect on all seven of his postseason attempts over a span of two games.
Boswell, by the way, registered eight touchbacks on 11 kickoffs during the postseason, and exceptional rate, but it is worth pointing out that that was far from the norm during the regular season, and it remains to be seen just what sort of leg he actually has in that regard.
During the regular season, Boswell registered only 26 touchbacks on 74 kickoffs, which is scarcely more than a third of the time, and is in line with the rate that the Steelers have been getting from Suisham over the course of the past few seasons since they moved the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35.
That aspect of the game, however, is what it is, and the reality is that touchbacks just became a lot less valuable with the league ruling that touchbacks will now be brought out to the 25-yard line rather than the 20. The Steelers allowed an average return of 22.6 yards during the regular season (not to be confused with an average starting field position, since a return can be taken from seven yards deep in the end zone).
The bottom line for Boswell is simply that he has to show he wasn’t a one-year wonder, and the truth is that there is no shortage of that sort of player from all positions, including kicking. Kickers can be fickle creatures, subject to inconsistency. But for whatever it’s worth, the 25-year-old seems to have the right demeanor and the composure to cement himself into the job long-term.