It’s one thing to be a punter and then to be suddenly put on the spot when your team’s kicker gets injured, and you are called upon to be the next man up to do a job that you’re not trained for. It’s at an entire other level when that happens during the first half of your rookie season, as it did for Pittsburgh Steelers seventh-round draft pick Pressley Harvin III.
Facing the Cleveland Browns in Week 8 a week ago from his past Sunday, the Steelers ran a fake field goal late in the first half that asked Boswell to roll to his right and try to hit one of his tight ends on a pass. Instead, the Browns responded to the late snap on a motion, reading the fake, and it was Boswell who took the hit.
He suffered a concussion and was knocked out for the rest of game. As it would turn out, the Steelers’ field goal unit was also knocked out for the rest of the game, as head coach Mike Tomlin decided not to ask his rookie punter to try to kick a field goal, something he hasn’t attempted since high school.
For the layman, it might be a bit surprising that this would be such a challenge—and to be clear, I’m certainly not presenting myself as anything other than a layman when it comes to detailed knowledge of the mechanics of either placekicking or punting. But Harvin would know, and he explained one Wednesday that “the difference [between kicking and punting] is everything”:
My entire job description is a lot different than Boswell. It’s two completely different swings. You have to practice two completely different things. You’re using a lot different parts of your leg. There’s a lot that goes into it. I mean, it’s a completely different form. I can’t just go straight on and kick it with my toe. That part of the kicking stage of the NFL, and kicking in general, is just long gone. You put someone in a position of something they don’t do, very rarely that I would have done anyway, especially since not doing it since high school, it’s completely different. But at the same time, you have to have the same type of mentality to try to get the job done.
While the mechanics are very different, the reality is that, because of the precision involved, it’s much easier for a kicker to serve as an emergency punter than it is for a punter to serve as an emergency kicker.
The Steelers do have some experience with the opposite. Former Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda has gotten injured a couple of times during games. The first time he tore his ACL in the NFL, kicker Shaun Suisham had to punt three times.