The Pittsburgh Steelers could save themselves some money if they are able to find a kicker that they are more content entering the 2019 season with than Chris Boswell, who has been with the team for most of the past four seasons.
The fifth-year kicker, who signed a long-term contract following a Pro Bowl season in 2017, had a disastrous campaign a year ago—“it didn’t go the way I wanted it to at all last year”, he told Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review—and the team set out to make him compete to retain his job this offseason.
That effort started with Matt McCrane, who was one of the kickers the Steelers brought in late in the 2018 season to make Boswell compete to retain his job then and there. He did, and kicked for the next couple of games, but he suffered a groin injury that put him on injured reserve prior to the season finale.
The Steelers then signed McCrane to a two-year contract. He made his three field goals in the finale, including a game-winner, but the team released him prior to the start of rookie minicamp, determining that he didn’t have a strong enough leg, and moving ahead only with rookie undrafted free agent Matthew Wright.
Competition is “good for everybody”, he told Gorman. He said that every other position has competition as well, so the kicker position is no different, affirming that it brings out the best in a competitor. “It’s taken me to another level”, he said. “I’ve just got to keep it there”.
He has kept it at a high level throughout training camp. According to practice reports, he only missed I believe one or two out of dozens of kicks throughout camp, with both misses being from distance, 50 yards or more. He had been perfect on all of his kicks in the preseason so far as well, and has done what is asked of him on kickoffs.
But he could still be the better kicker and not worth what he would be paid this year. Part of his 2018 contract was a $2 million roster bonus, which he was supposed to have already received by now, for this season. He agreed to defer it until at the end of the preseason—or otherwise be cut on the spot.
“That’s not something I’ve even thought about”, Boswell claimed when asked about the impending bonus, and what it might mean for him and his job security. “I’m worried about the season and worried about being here”.
He still has two more preseason games and the corresponding practices to get through before feeling comfortable that he has a job for the start of the 2019 season. So far, it looks as though he has put himself in good position to get back on the right track, but we won’t know for sure until he is put in meaningful situations with the game on the line. He became one of the highest-paid kickers of all time for making them in 2017, and nearly lost his job a year later for missing them.