Despite a victory against New England, the Pittsburgh Steelers face another week of deciding the fate of the inconsistent Chris Boswell.
The Pittsburgh Steelers emerged victorious in a decisive 17-10 victory over the New England Patriots. All facets of the game performed well for Pittsburgh, as the Steelers proved to move the ball effectively while containing the Patriots ever-so potent offense. The Steelers had finally rid themselves of the metaphorical monkey off their back, defeating New England for the first time since 2011.
What was perhaps lost in the celebrations was another shaky performance by Pro-Bowl kicker Chris Boswell. Boswell, who earned quite the lucrative contract (4 year, $16.8 million) after a tremendous 2017 campaign, has been nothing short of a risk every time he struts onto the field for a field goal attempt this season.
Boswell currently ranks as the second-worst kicker in the NFL, converting just 61% of his field goal attempts (14 kickers in the league currently have a 90% or better conversion rate), missing 7 field goals and 5 extra points through 14 games played. Boswell has missed kicks in what is now four consecutive games, asserting himself as a liability as the Steelers playoff push continues.
When asked of his performance following the missed potential game-tying field goal in Oakland, Boswell didn’t hold back.
"“It’s terrible,” Boswell told TribLive.com following the loss in Oakland. “What else do you want me to say… This is a business. You’re valued or looked at on results, and I’m not getting it done right now. Whatever happens from here happens.”"
What almost happened for Boswell was the loss of his job, as the Steelers brought in former kicker Shaun Suisham among other names for try-outs during the week. The team stuck with Boswell heading into Sunday’s match-up with New England, as head coach Mike Tomlin cited the extra workouts as “necessary”.
The term necessary had a variety of usages come time to follow through on a good week of practice for Boswell, who went 3/3 on extra points in Sunday’s victory despite missing a 32 yard field goal that ultimately would have given the Steelers more breathing room in the third quarter.
After the missed field goal, Boswell’s number was called again by Tomlin late in the fourth quarter to extent Pittsburgh’s lead. Boswell nailed a 48 yard field goal with 2:30 left to widen the margin to 7 points, ultimately proving to be enough in the end. Boswell had made a necessary kick, and just might have redeemed himself in the eyes of Steelers faithful.
As Pittsburgh continues its close playoff push, a question many Steelers fans will ponder is: Should Boswell keep his job moving forward? Nearly 5 hours after originally posting a poll begging the same question, a little over 300 Steelers fans made their voices heard.
A majority of fans, as you can see, answered yes. Coach Tomlin appeared to have the same train of thought, telling reporters in his post game press conference “He’s our kicker from start to finish”.
Yet should he?
In a perfect world, the 48 yard field goal made by Boswell could be used as a confidence booster moving forward, propelling him to the same heights Steelers fans know he can reach. However, we live in a world that is far from perfect, and the game of football makes no exceptions. Side note: Boswell is not directly responsible for all of Pittsburgh’s losses; he merely controls what he can kick.
We could make hypothetical situations all week in practice, yet the only thing that matters is the end result on Sunday, something Boswell simply hasn’t done this season. Despite the talent previously displayed in 2017, Boswell has arguably been the worst at his position this season.
Unfortunately for the Steelers (or maybe fortunately for Boswell), the money tied to Boswell may prevent him from going anywhere, as compared to a situation where former kicker Josh Scobee was released after similar outings to Boswell. Yet the Steelers need to be focused on making the moves that best suit their football team, and bringing in a fresh face for field goals is a conversation that will likely follow the team in the weeks to come.
Perhaps something within Boswell hasn’t been right. He’s been noticeably irritable in recent interviews (understandably so), and the criticism from fans has driven him to the point where his twitter account has been deleted.
Nobody who supports the Steelers wants Boswell to fail, yet is the discussion of finding new legs still open? Absolutely, and thus the Steelers front office has a tough choice to make.
Do they side with the money and continue to roll Boswell out despite his repeated history of unreliability when it matters the most? Or will Pittsburgh attempt to find fresh blood in hopes of changing the scenery leads to change in fortune?
The organization must choose between the potential salary cost of cutting Boswell, or the potential cost of their season via field goals.