The Pittsburgh Steelers showed up in Latrobe thinking that they had their kicking problems solved for the next decade or more, locking in then-fourth-year Pro Bowl kicker Chris Boswell to a long-term extension. He had just set team records for points scored and field goals made in a season the year before, but quickly went from one of the best in the league to one of the worst in 2018.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t hesitate even last season to challenge him for his job, bringing in a couple of legs late in the year to compete. Boswell, they determined, won, but he will have to earn his job yet again this summer.
To that end, the Steelers have so far only done two significant kicking drills through the first six days of camp. But on the positive end, Boswell has performed well. As Missi Matthews recapped on Steelers Live yesterday, “he is now perfect so far this camp, Coach Tomlin saying he wanted to put him under these high-pressure situations. 14 for 14 by my count, but also Vance McDonald was filling in” at long snapper.
He made all eight of his field goal attempts yesterday, through all but one of them came from within 40 yards. They tested both himself and his competitor, rookie college free agent Matthew Wright, with a fire drill game-winner scenario from 52 yards out, and he booted it through the uprights with plenty of leg to spare.
Tomlin wasn’t asked for an update at the kicking position after practice yesterday, but so far Wright has seemed to keep pace with Boswell, as the rookie made all eight of his attempts as well, including the same 52-yarder, only from the opposite hash mark.
Truth be told, the Steelers want to see Boswell work through his issues and return to being the kicker that he showed himself to be through the first three years of his career. He was picked up after four weeks into the 2015 regular season, and was on-pace to become the most accurate kicker in history through 100 attempts before he went a disastrous 13 for 20 last year.
Boswell is still owed roughly $11.5 million in base salary and roster bonuses over the course of the next four seasons. If he fails to make the team (assuming before his $2 million roster bonus is triggered), the team will have to eat a dead money charge of $3.2 million, but would save $1 million on this year’s cap and save nearly $9 million over the final three years of the deal.
But they would happily pay those prices for the kicker they originally gave that deal to. They only have to figure out where he’s gone off to, and if they can lure him back in.