Struggling Steelers kicker Boswell fighting for his job
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Chris Boswell knows the drill. Heck, the drill is the reason he’s in the NFL in the first place.
The Pittsburgh Steelers kicker earned a roster spot three years ago by booting balls in the rain and wind at Heinz Field during an open tryout after Josh Scobee flamed out four games into the 2015 season.
It was the break Boswell needed, one that propelled him to the Pro Bowl last winter and paved the way for him to sign a contract extension in August that runs through 2022.
Barely three months later, Boswell’s confidence and job status are both shaky at best.
The Steelers brought in Kai Forbath and Matt McCrane to kick after practice on Wednesday as potential replacements for Boswell after he missed two more kicks during Sunday’s 24-21 loss to Oakland, including a 40-yard field-goal attempt on the final snap during which his left foot slipped on the Oakland Coliseum turf and the ball smacked into the wall at the line of scrimmage.
“I mean that’s the nature of this business,” Boswell said Wednesday. “We’re judged on stats and wins and losses and if you don’t do the job, they look elsewhere.”
Boswell has made just 10 of 16 field goals and 39 of 44 extra points this season, his 11 combined misses nearly matching his entire total from 2015-17 (13).
There has been no common thread to Boswell’s issues. He’s missed left. He’s missed right. Distance isn’t the problem. All of the misses have come inside 50 yards.
“It’s mechanical. It’s mental. It’s a mixture of everything,” Boswell said. “It’s kind of, you’ve just got to kind of figure it out as you go, find something that works for you.”
At the moment, not much is. While coach Mike Tomlin stressed Boswell could very well survive the week, he felt the need for the Steelers (7-5-1) to explore their options heading into a visit from New England (9-4) on Sunday.
“We need the ball to go through the uprights,” Tomlin said. “(Boswell) needs the ball to go through the uprights and he hasn’t been consistently.”
Not by a long shot. And the misses have played a direct factor in the outcome of at least three games. He had a 42-yarder in overtime during a Week 1 tie in Cleveland sail left.
He left four points off the board in Week 2 against Kansas City in a game the Steelers lost by five. A missed extra point against the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 2 prevented Pittsburgh from opening a 17-point lead. Two touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions later and the Chargers drew even before winning it on a last-second kick by Mike Badgley. Two quarters before his botched 40-yarder against the Raiders, he failed to connect from 39 yards, a kick that would have knotted it at 10.
Compare his current struggles to last season, when he made 35 of 38 field goals, including three game-winners.
Oh, and there’s the playoff victory over Kansas City in 2016 in which he made all six of his field-goal attempts. And the wild victory in Cincinnati in the wild-card round the year before when he propelled Pittsburgh to the divisional round by making a 35-yarder in the rain with 14 seconds to go.
“Obviously it’s not an easy fix or I would have fixed it already,” Boswell said. “It’s something you’ve got to, when you come to work every day and have the right attitude.”
That’s how it works in the NFL, particularly if you’re at a position that sometimes feels interchangeable. Boswell’s career is proof.
Undrafted out of Rice, he failed to stick with Houston or the New York Giants before winning over Pittsburgh special teams coach Danny Smith during his wind-whipped audition in September 2015.
“Before I made this team, I was cut many times before that,” Boswell said. “I’ve kind of always had my back against the wall since coming out of college. That’s the position I’m in right now and we’ll just see what happens.”
Punter/holder Jordan Berry believes Boswell simply needs a little space to get things right. Though he’s doing what he can to nudge his teammate in the right direction, Berry said Boswell typically knows what happened before Berry even opens his mouth. It’s one of the reasons Berry thinks Boswell’s troubles are nearly over.
“We’re all confident he’s going to bounce back and have a good run here at the end of the season,” Berry said.
NOTES: QB Ben Roethlisberger (ribs), RB James Conner (ankle), RT Marcus Gilbert (knee), S Sean Davis (knee) did not practice. LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle) was limited. … C Maurkice Pouncey was given the day off.