After a season in which nothing seemed to go right for Chris Boswell, he headed home and decided an overhaul to his kicking approach would be wrong.
So he didn’t change a thing.
“I’m going to stick to what I did going into my fourth year,” said Boswell, who is entering his fifth with the Pittsburgh Steelers. “It didn’t work last year, but I’m not going to scratch everything. I’m here to do a job and focus on that job and the next kick.”
When he met with reporters after the fourth day of organized team activities, Boswell declined to discuss the groin injury that landed him on injured reserve for the final game of the 2018 season. He also didn’t want to get into specifics about whether mental or mechanical inconsistencies were at the root of his worst NFL season.
Only Boswell truly knows what went wrong in 2018, and he’s keeping those thoughts to himself.
“That’s not something that is ever going to be shared,” Boswell said. “I had some long meetings with a lot of people and just kind of getting to the bottom of everything. I’m trying to have a nice foundation going into camp and the season.”
After setting franchise records for field goals and points in a season while making the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2017, Boswell followed up with the worst statistical showing among all NFL kickers. He made 13 of 20 field-goal attempts, a 65% conversion rate 10 points lower than the penultimate kicker on the list.
A year after making four winning field goals while the Steelers went 13-3, Boswell missed a potential winner in overtime at Cleveland to begin last season. His two missed two field goals at Oakland and a missed extra point against the Los Angeles Chargers were contributing factors in other losses during a 9-6-1 season.
The Steelers brought in kickers for tryouts but stuck with Boswell until Week 17 when his groin injury surfaced, and he was placed on injured reserve.
“That’s not even to be mentioned or brought up,” Boswell said regarding his injury. “I’m out there to do a job. I didn’t do that job to the best of my abilities, and that’s what it comes down to.”
Boswell wouldn’t be the first accomplished kicker to bounce back from a poor season. Adam Vinatieri missed nine field goals in 2003 and still is kicking. Hall of Famer Morten Andersen overcame a 69% conversion rate in 1989 and kicked for another 17 seasons.
“I’m not going to seek comfort and look at that and say everything is fine with me, that I’m going to be OK,” Boswell said. “I have to really get after it this offseason, like I have been, show up here ready to kick and compete and take it from here on out.”
One reason the Steelers resisted making a midseason change was the financial investment they made in Boswell, giving him a five-year contract in training camp that included a $6 million signing bonus.
When he arrived at OTAs, Boswell was thankful the Steelers had given him another chance.
“I have an appreciation for everything,” he said. “Still being here is a blessing. Just being in this sport and this industry is a blessing in general. As long as they’ll have me here, I’ll keep kicking and swinging.”
For the first time in his four training camps with the Steelers, Boswell won’t be doing it alone. Aside from punter Matt Wile kicking a pair of extra points last preseason, Boswell has never faced competition in training camp until this year.
Matt McCrane, who replaced Boswell and made all three field-goal tries in the season finale, was released after the NFL Draft, but the Steelers added rookie Matthew Wright of Central Florida as an undrafted free agent.
“No matter who is out here, it’s me versus me, it’s not me versus anybody,” Boswell said. “As long as I can conquer that, I should be pretty good.”
And Boswell will do it by taking the same approach that landed him with the Steelers during the 2015 season and made him one of NFL’s most reliable kickers until last season.
“I have to get back to basics,” he said. “That’s why being here at OTAs for everybody is so important. It’s where you build that base to lead you into the season. By the time the season comes, it becomes muscle memory.”