Years ago, Justin Tucker nearly became a Pittsburgh Steeler. Had that happened, the team likely wouldn’t be dealing with their current kicker concerns, hoping for a bounce back season from Chris Boswell.
In a piece from The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, picked up by the Ravens’ team site, Tucker recalls nearly flying into Pittsburgh for a workout after going undrafted in 2012. Here’s how the story goes. Tucker was offered a tryout spot in Baltimore’s rookie minicamp after the draft. But they didn’t instantly sign him and Pittsburgh came calling to offer him a tryotu. Tucker turned them down, a gamble and sense of loyalty to Baltimore, and a couple weeks later, the Ravens offered a contract.
From there, the rest is history. He’s gone on to be an elite kicker with the game’s best and most consistent leg, connecting on 70% of his attempts from 50+. He’s gone on to make three All-Pro teams.
Of course, the 2012 version of Tucker wasn’t the one fans know today. He was just an unknown kicker from Texas who had a good – not great – college career. He spent all four years as the Longhorns’ punter, not kicking until his junior season. As a kicker, he went 40/48, and as a senior, missed three attempts from 30-39 yards. Not eye-popping numbers.
But I imagine anyone who saw him in a workout, like the Ravens did, saw the raw talent and ability he had. If Pittsburgh could’ve convinced him to come in for a visit, he might have been signed then and there.
Heading into 2012, the Steelers again had kicking concerns. Shaun Suisham was coming off a year where he made fewer than 75% of his attempts. The only competition he had was Daniel Hrapmann, a rookie out of Southern Mississippi. He never attempted a field goal in a regular season game.
Since, the Steelers’ kicking situation has been a roller coaster. Suisham bounced back in 2012 with a strong season and became a fan favorite. In 2015, he blew out his knee on the Hall of Fame Game’s shoddy field. Pittsburgh scrambled, trading for Josh Scobee who imploded with the force of a black hole. That led them to Boswell, who immediately impressed, earned a long-term contract, and struggled his way through 2018 before landing on injured reserve.
All of which could’ve been avoided had Tucker agreed to fly into the Steel City. Instead of having Tucker on their side, fans have to wince every time they see him line up for a kick.