It’s actually not every year that the Pittsburgh Steelers have multiple significant training camp battles for important jobs that look to be hotly contested, but this year, they have several, whether it’s at right tackle, wide receiver, inside linebacker, backup quarterback, or even kicker.
And while the Steelers only brought in rookie college free agent Matthew Wright to kick against Chris Boswell at Saint Vincent College, the fifth-year veteran understands that he’s not just going up against one player. Boswell knows, he is kicking against any other placekicker that may come available to the team, something that General Manager Kevin Colbert subtly confirmed on The Fan yesterday.
When asked about whether or not they are looking at Boswell as the incumbent from an advantage perspective or if the competition is simply wide open, Colbert took the roundabout way of answering, but ultimately landed on the obvious, which is that he very much needs to play well enough to deserve to be on the roster, and not simply kick better than Wright.
Chris obviously was our kicker last year and he had a disappointing season, disappointing for him, disappointing for us. And really disappointing considering what he did for the year before. Chris had four walk-off wins for us, or he helped us finish those walk-off wins. So again, he’s done it before and we want to see him do it again. He wants to see him do it again and he has to prove to himself and prove to us that he can match the standards that, quite honestly, he set in 2017. So again, he’s a young player. He hit a slump and again, until we get out into the preseason and regular season, we won’t know if he’s coming out of it. So we better be prepared. And we have competition here and we’ll also be watching what’s going on around the league with other kickers.
The Steelers originally signed Boswell during the week leading up to Week Five in the 2015 season following a series of unfortunate events that began with Shaun Suisham tearing his ACL trying to make a tackle on a kickoff on an awful field and ended with Josh Scobee being released after missing two potential game-winners in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Boswell kicked well for the remainder of that season, came back and performed strong the following year, and then set franchise records for points scored and field goals made en route to a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2017, after which he was awarded with one of the largest contracts ever given to a specialist at that time.
Just one season later, his roster spot is hanging by a thread. He already had to defend his job late last season while he was struggling, the team bringing in two other kickers to compete against him. One of them was Matt McCrane, whom they ended up signing anyway to kick in the finale after Boswell was injured. McCrane remained under contract until he was released just before rookie minicamp, where he would have competed against Wright.