The Pittsburgh Steelers scraped and clawed all game, but it ultimately paid off in the end, as they came away with a big 24-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals to move to 9-5, which sets them up for a chance to clinch the AFC North a week from today on Christmas, at home against the Bengals.
And they can thank their young kicker, second-year man Chris Boswell, for putting them in that position, because it was his franchise-record-tying six field goals that kept the offense afloat before finally scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. And the offense didn’t make it easy on him, either.
To put it plainly, five of Boswell’s six field-goal attempts—each of his first five—came from a distance of at least 40 yards. While one of them came from exactly 40 yards, another was struck from 45 yards out, and he hit on a trio of field goals from a distance of 49 yards. The first one just squeaked through, but the others had some cushion.
Boswell’s final field goal of the day was a comparative walk through the park at just 30 yards, but it was a big one, because it gave the Steelers 12 unanswered points from late in the second quarter through to the early minutes of the fourth quarter, and it put them down just two points behind the Bengals.
Boswell’s six made field goals was a career-high for him, which was previously just four, which he accomplished last season, of course, though he also repeated that performance in the playoffs. That number tied him with Gary Anderson and Jeff Reed for the most field goals made for the Steelers in a single game in team history.
That also gave Boswell 20 made field goals on the season out of 24 attempts, bringing his average up from 77.8 percent up to a more respectable 83.3 percent. The Steelers’ offense has not afforded him the same number of opportunities this year, however, to kick field goals, in comparison to last season.
Consider the fact that this was Boswell’s 13th game of the year, and he only attempted 24. That is fewer than two field goal attempts per game. Last year, when they picked up him after the regular season had already started, he attempted 32 field goals in just 12 games. And he hit on 29 of those for an impressive rookie season.
One blemish on his day was the Steelers’ poor kick coverage unit, which allowed the Bengals multiple positive returns. The first that was returned was brought out to the 36, while another reached the 30. But the big one was a 72-yard return down to Pittsburgh’s 26, which was only saved from being a touchdown by Boswell himself, who helped the returner trip himself up.
But the Steelers as a team owe the young man a debt of gratitude for keeping them afloat in this one as they repeatedly stalled. The degree of difficulty on many of his kicks only makes his day all the more impressive.