The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Can a kicker get over the yips?
This is actually one of the biggest questions the Steelers are asking themselves this offseason, and I’m not even being facetious. They thought that they legitimately had a Pro Bowl kicker, the best in franchise history, on pace to be one of the most accurate, clutch, and reliable of all time through his first three seasons.
Then 2018 happened to Chris Boswell, and both he and the Steelers are still trying to figure it out. Pittsburgh nearly cut him late in the season last year, but instead chose to bring in competition and make him compete for his job. He won that competition, but he’ll have to win his job again this fall.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that had Boswell been his usual self, the Steelers probably would have made the playoffs last season. While it’s impossible to take into account all of the butterfly effect results that may stem from changing one thing, the reality is that they missed the postseason by half a game, and Boswell missed a game-winner in the opener that ended in a tie.
I feel that I’m going to need to write a disclaimer here by saying that I’m not blaming Boswell solely for the Steelers missing the postseason. And yes, a team should never put itself in a position in which it needs to make a field goal to win, etc., etc. We know how this works.
But kickers get paid to do their jobs, and they get paid because teams know that they’re a valuable part of their football team, capable of performing a critical, even essential function. There were other games in which misses contributed to their loss, or inability to force a tie to continue playing.
After he missed seven of 20 field goal attempts, and another five extra point attempts, Boswell himself admitted that a lot of it is mental. Prior to last season, he looked like he couldn’t be phased. Can he get back to that, or does a kicker truly just suddenly ‘lose it’ and never get it back?