Will the Pittsburgh Steelers have a championship-caliber kicker on their roster in 2019? Will they put themselves in a position in which they will need one?
Truth be told, the latter question has always been misguided. Teams throughout history have relied upon kickers to score critical points. Ever heard of Adam Vinatieri? It’s arguable that were it not for him, there might never have been a New England Patriots dynasty. Even accepting that as hyperbolic, the fact is that he won some Super Bowls. Kickers are football players as much as everyone else on the roster with the potential to be equally important in their moment.
So, moving on, yes, the Steelers are trying to figure out if the Chris Boswell of 2019 will be more reminiscent of himself in 2018 or in 2017. Because there is a big difference between the two. He made 35 of 38 field goal attempts in 2017. He made 13 of 20 attempts in 2018.
And some of the kicks that he failed to make were consequential, including the miss from 42 yards out in the season opener in overtime that ultimately led to a tie, and another miss on which he slipped at the end of the game that could have tied things up.
Given his past history leading into last season, it’s hard to know how to evaluate him. To this point, the Steelers aren’t even taking training camp very seriously with respect to his work, unless he starts to miss anything. What he has done to date is merely an acknowledgement that he understands and accepts his situation.
“From an attitude standpoint, he accepted that challenge that we gave him, and honestly that he gave himself in the offseason”, General Manager Kevin Colbert said of Boswell during Steelers Live yesterday evening. “He went from one of the two best in 2017 to one of the two worst in 2018. We think, as a young player that helped us win games in 2017, that he can re-find, regain that form”.
“Again, the preseason will be the start”, he added. “Making field goals in practice is a good start, but until you get into the more pressure situations, we won’t know. So he’s gonna have to have a good preseason. He has to meet the expectations and the standards that honestly he set in 2017”.
From my understanding, the Steelers have done three dedicated kicking drills so far during training camp, consisting of a total of a combined 20 kicks. Boswell has made 19 of them now, with the only miss being in Heinz Field from 50 yards out, in the closed end of the stadium.
The team’s first preseason game is coming up this Friday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You can rest assured that Boswell will be getting the first crack at any kicks. It’s starting to feel as though he is competing more against himself than Matthew Wright.