Kevin Gorman: Steelers' Chris Boswell gives missed FG the boot
Chris Boswell couldn't shake the thought of missing the winning field goal that would have saved the Pittsburgh Steelers from their 21-21 overtime tie in Sunday's opener at the Cleveland Browns.
So he kicked it out.
Boswell lined up the field goal in the dark Monday at UPMC Rooney Center indoor complex, placing a tee at the right hash mark and repeatedly kicking a 42-yard field goal through the uprights.
Same spot. Same distance. Different result.
"I wanted to get that taste out of my mouth," Boswell told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday afternoon. "I want to kick it. I want to see myself kick it over and over and over again. It's like some basketball players do if they miss a shot or they have a bad game: They go straight to the gym and work on it. I've done it a little bit in the past. It's obviously not something I want to get into the habit of doing."
That's why jaws dropped when Boswell missed with 1 minute, 48 seconds remaining in overtime. The Steelers kicker was money with the game on the line last season, converting four winners and becoming the first kicker since Ryan Longwell in 2004 to kick three game-winning field goals in three consecutive games as time expired.
No wonder they call him the Wizard of Boz.
But in sudden death on Sunday, Boswell ran out of magic.
His explanation was simple: "I missed it."
Boswell hooked it left, just outside the upright. Boswell wouldn't blame Kameron Canaday's snap or Jordan Berry's hold or the rain or wind at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Boswell blamed only himself.
"It's not something I'm going to blame the weather on," Boswell said. "I've kicked in rain before. I've kicked in snow. I've made kicks in all of that, so it's just a matter of me putting the ball through the pipes. And I didn't."
Boswell was 35 of 38 on field goals last season -- counting the one blocked by Chicago in an overtime loss -- and made his final 13 attempts of the season. The Pro Bowl pick was rewarded by the Steelers on Aug. 23 with a four-year, $15.8 million extension, making him the NFL's highest-paid kicker by average salary.
Boswell wouldn't blame that, either.
"I don't think a contract changes how you kick a football," Boswell said.
But a contract could change how much pressure a kicker is under to convert and how much pressure he puts on a miss. And Boswell was bent on putting this miss behind him, no matter how many kicks in the dark it required.
"You try to move past it as fast as you can, but it's going to sink in for a little bit," Boswell said. "It's something you have to just keep fighting. You miss your first one, and you've just got to bounce back and act like it never happened. That's what I'm trying to do."
For Boswell, kicking in the dark was more about two things: muscle memory and success. It wasn't about kicking indoors or outdoors, with the lights on or off. He just wanted to watch the ball go through the uprights before the Steelers had a running session.
"He's a really strong-headed dude. He doesn't let stuff like that mess him up," Berry said. "In the past, we haven't been in a situation where he's missed a game-winning one before, but he's missed kicks and doesn't let that get to him.
"He's always been able to come back and perform at a high level and do what we need him to do the next week or the next kick. Everyone here has their trust in him, and he seems to be handling it pretty well."
Boswell has experienced his share of success, but he also is familiar with failure. He was cut by the Houston Texans and New York Giants before signing with the Steelers. He set a franchise regular-season record for field goals (29) and team record for points (113) by a first-year player in 2015 and team records for most field goals in a regular-season game (six, at Cincinnati) and a playoff game (six, at Kansas City).
But the Steelers believe in Boswell, so it was just a matter of Boswell believing in himself again after missing a game-winner.
"Everyone here fully trusts in him, that he's going to be able to go out there and kick him next time we need him to," Berry said. "Obviously, he's done it very well in the past and has never let anything like that get in the way. He just missed a kick, that's all."
A kick Boswell booted until he put it behind him, one reason the Steelers should continue to count on him in the clutch.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org ; or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.