A few weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers brought then-free agent kickers Matt McCrane and Kai Forbath in for tryouts and while neither was signed due to the team ultimately deciding to stick with kicker Chris Boswell, the former was signed on Friday to replace the injured Boswell. McCrane, who kicked earlier this season for the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals, said on Friday that he was actually playing golf on Thursday when he received the call from the Steelers that they wanted to sign him.
Newly-signed kicker Matt McCrane spoke with the media following his first practice in Pittsburgh. pic.twitter.com/cd6HFFPX9M
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 28, 2018
“I’ve stayed ready, you just kind of pack a bag and hope for a call,” McCrane said on Friday when asked if he was surprised to get a call from the Steelers that they wanted to sign him. “I was playing golf on the 18th green when I got a call so I went straight to the airport and told my fiance that I’ll see her soon. So you know, that’s the kind of the way it works, it’s a life of a kicker, it’s just moving around.”
While McCrane’s NFL career to date has been very brief, it has indeed required him to move around some. After being signed originally as an undrafted free agent in April by the Cardinals, McCrane kicked for them all through training camp and the preseason. However, despite being perfect on his four field goal attempts and three extra point tries during the preseason, the Cardinals waived him in lieu of keeping veteran kicker Phil Dawson.
After being waived by the Cardinals just prior to the start of the regular season, McCrane, a Kansas State product, reportedly had a tryout with the New York Jets that ended with him leaving town unsigned. In late September the Raiders signed McCrane to replace injured kicker Mike Nugent. In the three games that McCrane kicked in for the Raiders he was 5 for 5 on his extra point attempts but just 5 of 9 on field goal attempts with his four misses coming from 48, 57, 47 and 50 yards out. One of the kicks he made was a 29-yard game-winner in overtime that came in his first contest against the Cleveland Browns. The Raiders, however, decided to move on from McCrane in Week 7 in lieu of signing kicker Daniel Carlson.
As fate would have it, the Cardinals signed McCrane to their practice squad a few days after he was waived by the Raiders. They didn’t need him long, however, as he was cut a few days later. After a few weeks had passed the Cardinals re-signed McCrane to their 53-man roster to fill in for an injured Dawson against the Raiders. However, despite making all three of his extra point attempts in that Week 11 game the Cardinals waived him just a few days later in lieu of signing kicker Zane Gonzalez to their practice squad. That next weekend, Gonzalez took over permanently for Dawson, who was placed on the Cardinals Reserve Injured list.
After being cut again by the Cardinals, McCrane reportedly had another unsuccessful tryout in late November with the Carolina Panthers.
On Friday, McCrane talked about his four misses he had while with the Raiders in addition to the time he spent with the Cardinals and how he was perfect while kicking briefly for them.
“I think they were tough situations in Oakland,” McCrane said. “You know, the 57-yarder that I hit, I hit it pretty pure, but it’s kind of like a Hail Mary. And some of the others [missed kicks], I don’t have an excuse for them, they were misses. And then with Arizona I was perfect, really. I didn’t miss in the preseason and then did well the last couple of games. So, yeah I ended it good in Arizona, but they ended up going with Zane.”
As previously mentioned, McCrane’s four missed field goal attempts with the Raiders were from 47 yards or longer. You can also see his missed 57-yard field goal attempt against the Los Angeles Chargers below. He hit on line, but it fell short.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) December 28, 2018
McCrane was asked on Friday about there now being pressure on him to make kicks for the Steelers on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals in what some might consider to be a defacto playoff game.
“Every kick is the same,” McCrane said. “You know, you try not to think about it. I’ve had had some NFL experience, I had game-winner in the beginning against Cleveland with Oakland, you know, so it’s just getting that experience and every rookie eventually has to prove that. So, yeah, I just take it one kick at a time, focus on the current kick and then move on to the next. It’s no kick is more important than the other.”
After admitting on Friday that his previous tryout with the Steelers was conducted at the team’s practice facility, McCrane indicated that the plans were for him to go to Heinz Field later in the day to familiarize himself with that stadium and the corresponding conditions.
“We’re headed out there today to go and take a look at it,” he said.
While McCrane could be one game and done with the Steelers depending on whether or not Pittsburgh makes the playoffs on Sunday, he let it be known on Friday that he’s only concentrating on making his kicks against the Bengals and thus not worried about what may or may not happen after that.
“I take it one kick at a time,” McCrane said. “If I miss the previous kick, I move on and go to the next and whatever happens from there forward, that’s what happens. So, that’s kind of what I’m focused on is the current kick, whether that’s a field goal or kickoff, I just take it one kick, one practice and one game at a time.”
Should McCrane wind up having a good showing on Sunday against the Bengals and the Steelers fail to make the playoffs, the team might decide to re-sign him with the notion that he could challenge Boswell for his job in 2019. All I know is that he better not miss a kick on Sunday against the Bengals.