Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II made clear early in his Wednesday interview with several members of the local media that the team’s poor kicking game played a big part in them missing the playoffs this season.
“If I had to point to a couple of things that I think were problems that may have cost us that opportunity (to be in the playoffs), No. 1 was a lack of even an average kicking game,”Rooney said, according to steelers.com.” For somewhat inexplicable reasons our kicker went from one of the best in the league to one of the worse in the league, and so games that we won close last year, we didn’t win close this year.
Rooney was of course talking about Steelers kicker Chris Boswell, who made just 13 of his 20 field goal attempts on the season in addition to missing five extra-point attempts. Boswell’s poor season came on the heels of him going to the Pro Bowl in 2017 after making 35 of his 38 field goal attempts and all but two of his extra-point tries. The team even rewarded Boswell’s great 2017 season by giving the Rice product a four-year, $16.8 million contract extension that included a $6 million signing bonus and a 2018 roster bonus of $1.295 million.
During a Wednesday afternoon interview with Bob Pompeani of KDKA, Rooney was asked if he was surprised by how quickly Boswell went from one of the league’s top kickers to one of the worst.
“I was definitely surprised,” Rooney said. “I mean, Chris was last year one of the best kickers in the league, so kind of hard to explain. I think it’s just one of those things where he lost confidence and couldn’t get it back, and you know, sometimes that happens.”
How and why Boswell struggled last season certainly needs to be figured out this offseason, one that includes the kicker being due a $2 million roster bonus in March. On the surface, while the Steelers aren’t currently showing any signs of moving on from Boswell between now and the start of training camp, Rooney made it clear to Pompeani that he’ll need to compete for his job during the offseason.
“I expect we’ll have a competition at our kicking position next year and I would hope that Chris can get back on steady footing, solid ground, whatever you want to say,” Rooney said. “But I think we have no choice but to open that position to some competition here in the offseason.”
The Steelers signed free agent kicker Matt McCrane to a two-year contract in Week 17 to kick in the team’s finale against the Cincinnati Bengals due to Boswell needing to be placed on the Reserve/Injured list due to a groin injury. While McCrane made all of his kicks against the Bengals, his kickoffs weren’t great at all and thus it’s hard to imagine he’ll seriously challenge Boswell for the 2019 kicking job during the offseason.
If the Steelers were wise, they’ll sign a more experienced free agent kicker during the offseason on the cheap to replace McCrane. From there, the Steelers could expect a decent competition during training camp and the preseason while evaluating other kickers around the NFL ahead of the start of the regular season should they need to sign one of them.