For as much as there is truth in the statement that a team should never let a game come down to a kicker, the reality is that games often do, and frankly, that’s the reason that teams pay the best ones—or the ones that are supposed to be the best—upwards of $4 million per season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were so confident that they had one of the best in Chris Boswell that they gave him such a contract this offseason, even though he was only a restricted free agent who was given a second-round tender that no team tried to match. They could have tried to sign him next offseason, even giving him the franchise tag if necessary to buy negotiating time, but they decided to get it done now.
They are probably regretting it now after he has missed six of his 16 field goal attempts so far through the first 13 games of the 2018 regular season. And five of his extra point attempts as well. That included two misses this past Sunday in a three-point loss, including a potential game-tying attempt at the end of the game on which he slipped and sent the ball into the traffic upfront.
Boswell has missed at least one kick of some kind, either a field goal or an extra point, in eight of 13 games this season. This fact is made all the more astonishing because he has never been asked to attempt more than two field goals in any game. In two of the five games in which he had no misses, he only attempted two kicks of any kind.
With each passing game with a miss, Head Coach Mike Tomlin has been asked about the state of his kicker. Generally speaking, he has offered some level of support, but he did not do so on Sunday. He was asked directly if he intended to start looking for a new kicker.
“It’s disappointing here today”, was his only response. “That’s all I’m going to say on it”. It’s a bit hard to read into that, admittedly. Either he didn’t want to come right out and say that they were going to take a look at some legs in the near future, or he didn’t want to respond through the emotion of the moment.
Either way, it’s not good for Boswell, who has missed at least one kick in three consecutive games now, and has field goal misses in two games that they either lost by three or fewer points or which they ended up tied.
Tomlin declined to endorse his kicker, but really, any endorsement he might have offered would not have been taken at face value. He has struggled too much too frequently for anybody to take any suggestion of confidence seriously. He has only made two of his last five field goal attempts, which came after making seven in a row.
A year after making the Pro Bowl, could he really finish the season unemployed due to poor performance?