Several weeks ago, when Chris Boswell missed a game due to injury, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was pretty open after the game in saying that he passed over an opportunity to attempt a long field goal because he didn’t want to put that pressure on Matthew Wright.
Wright is the practice squad kicker who was making his NFL debut after being elevated from the practice squad to kick in place of Boswell for the game. It would not be the first time that Tomlin would decide to pass up a long field goal attempt without his primary kicker.
On Sunday, he didn’t have much choice but to give Wright a couple of opportunities from range, but he was up to the task. Through the first drive of the third quarter, he accounted for all nine of the Steelers’ points on three-for-three on field goal attempts, including two makes from 46 yards, after entering the game with just one field goal attempt over two games. He did go six-for-six on extra point attempts.
In the end, Wright would only be asked to attempt one more kick in the game after their first touchdown of the fourth quarter, as they attempted a two-point conversion on the second, but he was four-for-four all told on the kicks he was asked to make during the game.
In three games of work for the Steelers, the first-year kicker is now four-for four on field goal attempts and seven-for-seven on extra point attempts, including two-for-for from between the 40s, having made every kick so far that he was asked to attempt.
“He is earning his stripes”, head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game about whether or not Wright had shown in his three-game body of work that he is capable of holding a full-time job in the NFL. “That is not for me to say. We are appreciative of his efforts and the way that he delivers for us for sure”.
Boswell has missed the past two games with a groin injury, but it has been an ongoing problem and they are probably trying to make sure he is right for the postseason. The veteran kicker also missed the week 13 game against Washington.
In the first two games, Wright, who was on the practice squad, was activated to the 53-man roster as a standard elevation. Since players only get two, the only reason the Steelers were able to elevate him for Sunday’s game was because they had the opportunity to raise a Covid-19 replacement, with Joe Haden among others missing the game.
Last week, the NFL announced that it would be suspending restrictions on practice squad elevations for the 2020 postseason run, so if Boswell should miss time in the postseason, they would still be able to elevate Wright. Success in the postseason would make it much more likely that he finds a shot with another team at a full-time job.