The Pittsburgh Steelers had the opportunity to bring two kickers into their rookie minicamp earlier this spring, but they passed up that chance when they elected to release Matt McCrane. McCrane was signed by the team ahead of the Week 17 game after starter Chris Boswell was injured.
But after they signed UCF rookie Matthew Wright, they elected to let McCrane go. So at least for the time being, unless something else changes, he will be the one challenging Boswell for the job going into training camp. Something that he and his agent expected he would be doing.
“I agreed to come here about midway through the draft on the third day actually”, he told Chris Adamski for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “They called and me, and my agent thought there was an opportunity, a good opportunity”.
Starting as one of three kickers of the roster, and now one of two, one has to figure that the opportunity has gotten even gooder (yes, gooder). But the pressure hasn’t affected Boswell, whom Wright has said has been very helpful to him since he was signed.
“He’s helpful with everything, and in just learning how to be a pro out here and ‘every kick matters’ and just treating it like that”, he told Adamski about his relationship with Boswell so far this offseason.
It’s far too early to say how the next few months will go, but one factor that will hang over the Steelers’ training camp battle for the kicker position is the $2 million roster bonus that the team would eventually have to pay to Boswell if he indeed, you know, makes the roster. That bonus was supposed to be paid in March, but he agreed to push it back because he would otherwise have been released.
Boswell was signed four games into the 2015 season after the Steelers released Josh Scobee when he missed four of eight field goal attempts. Scobee was already their second attempt to replace Shaun Suisham, who suffered a career-ending torn ACL a short time earlier at the start of the preseason.
During that time, Boswell became one of the top kickers in the year, even being recognized as a Pro Bowler in 2017, a year in which he made all of his kicks from 50 yards or more, as well as several game-winners in the final minute, or even seconds, of games.
But he collapsed a year ago when he missed 12 kicks in total, including seven of his 20 field goal attempts, which is why we now find ourselves talking about Wright. The Steelers were very clear in their intention to give Boswell competition for his job this summer.
Will it be Wright by training camp? Will it be only Wright? Could they make a trade for another kicker, or sign one after the roster cuts are made, if they are still not happy with Boswell? The easiest solution is simply for one of the two kickers on the roster to look good enough to carry into the season.