The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers’ kicker in 2019 will be Chris Boswell.
Explanation: A former undrafted free agent, Chris Boswell looked to make a name for himself as one of the best kickers in the NFL by 2017. But after receiving a big contract, he had one of the worst seasons for a kicker in recent memory, missing 12 out of 68 kicks between field goals and extra points. His job was put in jeopardy last season and the team has already committed to giving him competition in 2019.
It’s hard to find a good kicker, truth be told. One can easily make the argument that there are not even 32 good kickers in the NFL by today’s standards. Kickers get cut every year never to be heard from again. But it’s rare that a kicker as good as Boswell has such a quick and precipitous fall with no recovery.
Heading into 2018, Boswell was literally the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history, behind only the ridiculous Justin Tucker. In addition to his accuracy, he also displayed his range, making all four of his attempts from beyond 50 yards, and his demeanor, kicking five game-winning field goals in five attempts in the final minute of a game during the 2017 season.
Boswell clearly has some mental hurdles to get over following his struggles last year, but that’s quite possibly easier than finding another competent kicker. He will be in camp to compete for his job, so he has as much chance of anybody.
We have seen kickers lose it before and be unable to recover. It happened to Jeff Reed when the Steelers had to cut him in the middle of the season, and they replaced him with Shaun Suisham, who became a very good kicker himself until he suffered a career-ending ACL tear.
And that’s the point. Suisham was a mid-season signing, and he became the most accurate kicker in team history. That’s a title he regained after Boswell’s struggles last year. They even brought him around the team to help Boswell.
They found Suisham mid-year. They found Boswell mid-year. They even found Reed mid-year. Their last three kickers were found during mid-season tryouts, so it’s perfectly reasonable to believe they can find a decent one with an offseason’s worth of work. The one time they tried too hard (Josh Scobee) they failed.