While it ended up being pretty small beans in the grand scheme of things, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a rare miscue in the field goal procedure before getting the ball to Chris Boswell on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns.
We know of course about Boswell’s own struggles last season, which were almost entirely on him. By and large, Jordan Berry has been a great holder and Kameron Canady a more than competent long snapper. We’ve seen errors from both this year, though, and it finally came back to bite them last week.
After the Browns marched down the field 65 yards to score a touchdown on their opening drive, the offense was looking to respond. While they put a little something together after starting from their own 21, the drive stalled just outside of Cleveland’s 25-yard line.
That forced the Steelers to settle for a 44-yard field goal attempt from Boswell, which would have made it a 7-3 game at the time. Only Berry struggled to cleanly field a bit of a high snap from the long snapper. He barely even got the ball down on the grass before Boswell was ready to swing, and he pushed it wide left, not surprising under the circumstances.
What followed wasn’t necessarily a catastrophe, admittedly, as the Browns ultimately stalled just inside Steelers territory and punted for a touchback, but the miss gave them the ball at the 34-yard line to start out, as well as the momentum. On the road, for a team in a fragile state, you can’t afford that, as Mike Tomlin told reporters yesterday.
“Obviously, in a hostile environment you can’t have hiccups in the kicking game”, he said. “We mishandled a field goal snap and caused us to miss an opportunity for three points, particularly in the early stages of the game. I thought it didn’t help us environmentally, in terms of leveling the playing field, quelling the crowd, gaining some rhythm. It hurt us in a big way”.
As mentioned, Berry has actually been a pretty reliable holder over the years, the pair coming in together and having a familiarity with one another built on years of history and experience. He really beat himself up after he saw Boswell push the ball left, knowing it was his fault for not getting the ball down properly.
To his credit, though, that’s about as bad as the season has gotten for him, as he’s having arguably his best season as a punter. The raw numbers won’t necessarily give you a full picture, but his 46.5-yard average is over two yards above his career average for gross distance. He currently ranks eighth in the league in that category.