Steelers Inside the Ropes: Boswell sharp again, makes 2 beyond 50 yards
In the final practice before the preseason opener, the Pittsburgh Steelers put their kickers to one more test Wednesday at Saint Vincent.
Chris Boswell and rookie Matthew Wright alternated attempts toward the goalpost at the hillside of Chuck Noll Field. The kickers then concluded practice by kicking in simulated “mayday” conditions as a running clock wound toward zero.
In the regular kicking period, Boswell made 6 of 6 kicks, hitting from 33, 52, 39, 41, 33 and 51 yards, the final one coming in a hurry-up climate. Wright, an undrafted free agent from Central Florida, made 5 of 6 tries. His only miss was from 52 yards when his kick landed short. But he made his hurry-up 51-yarder at the end of the session.
The last test came when coach Mike Tomlin concluded practice by having second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph run the two-minute offense. The parameters were the offense needed a field goal with 1:01 on the clock and the ball at its 48.
The first play was a draw to Benny Snell that lost 4 yards. Rudolph completed a pass to Johnny Holton that put the ball on the opposing 47. Rudolph’s next attempt was a completion to Diontae Spencer across the middle at the 26. The kicking team ran onto the field with the clock winding inside 10 seconds. Boswell sent his 44-yard attempt through the uprights.
Instead of running the two-minute simulation again with the second team, Tomlin ended practice by placing the ball on the 25 and the clock ticking down from 14 seconds. The field-goal team sprinted onto the field again, and Wright made his 43-yarder.
Boswell and Wright will alternate kicks Friday night when the Steelers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field.
In other practice highlights:
• The field-goal unit practiced the “fire” drill in the event of a bad snap. On the first try, holder Jordan Berry threw a wobbly pass that blocking lineman Henry Mondeaux caught. When it was run again with the backup specialists, holder Ian Berryman threw a tight spiral to Mondeaux.
• Rudolph’s first rep in “seven shots” featured a score to Spencer in front of Cameron Sutton. Rudolph’s second pass zipped through the end zone after Trey Griffey altered his route. The third attempt was intercepted by Kam Kelly, who took snaps on the second team while P.J. Locke practiced with the starters.
• With Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster (day off) not practicing and David DeCastro and Alejandro Villaneuva taking a breather after individual work, the first-team offense line featured tackles Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner, guards Matt Feiler and Fred Johnson and center B.J. Finney.
• With Joe Haden leaving practice early and Justin Layne, Artie Burns and Brian Allen already out, St. Francis (Pa.) product Jermaine Ponder got plenty of snaps at cornerback in his second practice since being signed to provide depth. Sutton worked at left cornerback in place of Haden.
• Holton had two nice catches on deep balls, one on which he beat Ponder and the second coming when he outraced slot corner Mike Hilton to the ball.
• The Steelers worked on covering kickoffs during the first special-teams period. Players who were used as returners were Ryan Switzer, Sutton, Spencer and Holton.
• South Fayette native Jonathan Hayes, a tight end who spent the final three of his 12 NFL seasons with the Steelers from 1994-96, attended practice. Hayes, a longtime assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals until he was let go in January, is coach and general manager of the St. Louis XFL franchise. His son, Jaxson Hayes, was selected in June by the Atlanta Hawks with the No. 8 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .