Steelers training camp preview: 3 players on the hot seat
One is coming off his worst NFL season. Another lost his starting job, confidence and a huge payday. The other is pushing for a bigger role in the offense.
A look at three players on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster who will be on the hot seat when training camp opens Thursday at Saint Vincent:
1. Chris Boswell
Facing the risk of being cut in March, Boswell was “asked” to delay receiving his $2 million roster bonus until after the final preseason game, giving the Steelers more time to determine whether their former Pro Bowl kicker’s performance in 2018 was an aberration or a trend.
After agreeing to a $20 million contract in August that included a $6 million signing bonus, Boswell easily had his worst NFL season, making just 13 of 20 field goals.
The Steelers brought in undrafted free agent Matthew Wright of Central Florida for competition. If Boswell falters in the four preseason games, the Steelers could turn to Wright or grab a veteran kicker after final roster cuts.
2. Artie Burns
The former first-round draft pick lost a high-paying fifth year of his contract when the Steelers declined in the spring to pick up his option. Also at risk for Burns is an $800,000 roster bonus that reportedly is due on the third day of camp.
Burns put himself on the bubble by losing his starting job last season to journeyman cornerback Coty Sensabaugh. Steven Nelson was signed in free agency to start with Joe Haden in the secondary.
That move, plus the addition of third-round draft pick Justin Layne, makes for a crowded position group that also includes Cameron Sutton, Brian Allen and slot corner Mike Hilton.
3. Xavier Grimble
Grimble likely is in no danger of losing a spot on the 53-man roster. Still, he faces the biggest opportunity of his NFL career when he will be tasked with showing he can replace backup tight end Jesse James, who left in free agency.
Grimble is the only player with NFL experience behind starter Vance McDonald. The trouble is, he has only 22 career receptions over three seasons. He played in all 16 games last season and finished with six catches for 86 yards and no touchdowns (thanks to his infamous goal-line fumble in Denver).
Depending on what Grimble shows in training camp and the preseason, the Steelers could try to add a veteran tight end after rosters are trimmed Aug. 31.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .