It won’t be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin rolling into Latrobe, PA to make Saint Vincent College their home away from home for several weeks as the summer winds down. That is when we know that training camp has begun, and with it the first deep breaths of the 2019 NFL season.
Everything that we have experienced up until now, from the re-signings, releases, and trades to the draft and all the way through OTAs and minicamp, has been but a preview, the setup, for what is to come next.
And so we too continue to preview what comes next in a series in which we will highlight several of the battles for roster spots and roles that we expect to see during our time observing in training camp and throughout the preseason.
Up for Grabs: Starting Job
In the Mix: Chris Boswell, Matthew Wright
The table is set for Chris Boswell. He either eats or he doesn’t. The veteran kicker is coming off of an awful season, in which he missed seven of his 20 field goal attempts and an additional five extra point attempts, and understands that his job is very much on the line, even if he is just one year removed from going to the Pro Bowl.
Special teams coordinator Danny Smith earlier this offseason acknowledged that Boswell’s issues went beyond the mental, that it wasn’t just a matter of him gaining his confidence back. There were technical and fundamental issues that they worked on correcting back in the spring, but he would not go into detail about what those issues were nor the process of repairing them.
It can be hard to find a good kicker, which is why the teams who believe they have one pay them. The Steelers were convinced of Boswell’s abilities following his strong 2017 season and made him one of the highest-paid kickers, but he could be off the roster just a year after signing the deal.
Hanging over his head is a $2 million roster bonus that was supposed to come due early in training camp. For the sake of not being released immediately, he allowed it to be deferred to the end, so that the team can see if he’s worth rostering.
For the moment, his only competition is rookie free agent Matthew Wright, who made 12 of 14 field goal attempts his senior season at UCF, which was easily his best season. The team previously had Matt McCrane, who made three of three field goals attempts in the regular season finale for them last year, but he was waived prior to the start of rookie minicamp.
Even if Boswell ‘beats out’ Wright, there is still the possibility that the Steelers could trade for a kicker if they remain unsatisfied with him, or potentially claim one off waivers.