Mark Madden: Enough is enough, Steelers must boot Chris Boswell now
After soiling the bed in fashions varied and messy over the prior three weeks, the Steelers stared down their personal boogeyman at Heinz Field on Sunday and kept their playoff hopes realistic with a victory.
It felt like the Steelers should have won by at least 14, but you need only win by one.
A bad defense elevated itself through sheer will and stopped Tom Brady throughout the game and, dramatically, at its death.
The defense moved up a notch in my book. That puts it at notch one.
The Steelers can be proud, and relieved. Their season was on the brink.
Thing is, their season is still on the brink. They lead the AFC North by a paltry half-game.
That’s why the Steelers have to replace Chris Boswell. They won’t.
But if they don’t, they will pay for it.
The Steelers kicker lost the game at Oakland. He did his best to lose vs. New England. Forget the kick Boswell made. The one he missed left the result in doubt and gave Brady a chance he usually doesn’t squander. Boswell sliced it right like Judge Smails. The difficulty of the win connects directly to Boswell’s shank.
Boswell has missed 12 kicks (seven field goals, five extra points) this season. The notion a kicker would be kept on a roster long enough to miss 12 kicks is absurd. Boswell should have been canned a month ago.
Kicker is football’s most disposable position. (Running back may be second: Witness Jaylen Samuels deputizing for James Conner taking the place of Le’Veon Bell.) Why are the Steelers holding on to Boswell?
They brought in Shaun Suisham to work with Boswell. Suisham is the kicker Boswell replaced. They should have hired a shrink instead. Boswell has the yips.
That should be Boswell’s problem, not the Steelers’. Enough is enough. Get another kicker.
If the Steelers miss the playoffs, it should be because real football players fail. Not a kicker.
After Sunday’s win, Mike Tomlin said Boswell is “our kicker from start to finish.” Ride or die. If Tomlin means that, it’s stupidity dipped in stubbornness drooling from the mouth of a coach who isn’t exactly having a career year.
Ditching Boswell was obviously considered. The Steelers tried out two other kickers last week. Kai Forbath performed well enough to win the job. The Steelers kept Boswell. Forbath signed with Jacksonville and made two field goals in two tries. One-for-one on extra points.
Rookie Matt McCrane was the other kicker. He was cut by Arizona (twice) and Oakland earlier this season.
Is McCrane better than Boswell? He can’t be worse. That’s usually a terrible, haphazard reason to make a personnel move.
But it’s come to that.
Don’t fret about the cap hit. (Boswell is signed through 2022. If he’s cut, his cap hit for next year would be $4.8 million.) Worry about making the playoffs now. Think about what kicker gives you the best chance to win. (It’s not Boswell.) Boswell’s contract was too much, too long in the first place.
Deactivate Boswell if you don’t want to cut him. Fabricate an injury and put him on IR. But get another kicker.
Why on earth is replacing Boswell so hard? When is the last time a team treated a failing kicker with such deference?
Boswell has cost the Steelers. The Steelers are lucky Boswell hasn’t cost them more.
Sunday’s win was quite the kaleidoscope of oddities.
The Steelers plumb forgot to cover Chris Hogan on his 63-yard touchdown receptions. He could have run to Swissvale.
Artie Burns’ career renaissance lasted three snaps.
Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, jacking up his season total to 15.
Mike Tomlin=bad clock management. Again. (He’ll rationalize it. Again.)
The Steelers running game returned from the dead. Samuels’ 19 carries and 142 yards were each lifetime highs. More than college or high school.
JuJu Smith-Schuster got a cheeseburger at a tailgate before the game. (This was big news on Twitter. It was actually argued whether Smith-Schuster got a cheeseburger or a hot dog.)
Rob Gronkowski was invisible: Just two catches for 21 yards.
The weirdest thing of all might have been that Brady failed. New England fans should get used to that. Brady has finally hit the wall. Splat.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).