Competition begins as Steelers mull replacing kicker Chris Boswell
Chris Boswell joined the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2015 season by winning a kicking competition. It is no surprise he might be replaced the same way.
The Steelers held a tryout after practice Wednesday as they decide whether to cut Boswell, their fourth-year kicker who has missed six field goals and five extra points this season.
Boswell said he went through a typical Wednesday practice and did not expect to partake in the competition, which included free agent veteran Kai Forbath and rookie Matt McCrane.
“I came here off the street,” Boswell said. “I was cut many times before that. I’ve always kind of had my back against the wall since coming out of college. That’s the position I’m in right now. We’ll see what happens.”
Forbath has been unemployed this season after spending the past two years of his six-season career with the Minnesota Vikings. McCrane spent three games with Oakland and one with Arizona this season.
After missing two field goals Sunday in a 24-21 loss to the Raiders, including the tying kick as time expired, Boswell figured the Steelers had lost patience with his inconsistency.
“That’s the nature of this business,” Boswell said. “We’re judged on stats and wins and losses, and when you don’t do the job, they look elsewhere.”
Complicating matters for the Steelers is Boswell has four years remaining on the contract he signed late in training camp. The deal included a $6 million signing bonus and made Boswell the third-highest paid kicker in the NFL based on average annual salary.
If Boswell is cut, he would count $4.8 million against the salary cap next season.
Punter Jordan Berry, who serves as Boswell’s holder, had his job on the line earlier in the season when the Steelers brought in a few free agents for a tryout. Berry didn’t lose his job, but he welcomed the challenge.
“It’s obviously a thing that there’s people in the building that aren’t 100 percent confident in you, so, obviously, you do get frustrated and (ticked) off when stuff like that happens,” Berry said. “But at the same time, it’s almost good to get that kind of reminder that, ‘Hey, nothing’s given to you.’
“You have to go through and earn your spot every day. At least for me it was. I had those couple bad games, and it was definitely warranted that they brought people in.”
Berry also joined the Steelers in 2015 and has spent more time with Boswell than any other player over the past four seasons. He doesn’t see Boswell’s confidence waning.
“He’s a mentally strong guy,” Berry said. “He’s been able to go through some games and situations in the past. It’s a different one now. There’s still pressure he’s working through, and we’re confident he’ll bounce back and have a good run here at the end of the season.”
Boswell’s slump came on the heels of a 2017 season in which he set a franchise single-season record with 35 field goals. He also had 142 points while making his first Pro Bowl.
Boswell has made just three of eight attempts between 40-49 yards, and he’s 10 of 16 overall. His five missed extra points are two more than he had combined in his first three seasons.
“It’s mechanical. It’s mental. It’s a mixture of everything,” Boswell said. “You have to figure it out as you go and find something that works for you, and something that works for me won’t be something that works for somebody else.”
Boswell’s problems surfaced in the opener when he missed the winning field goal attempt in overtime, but he is not sure when it became a trend. He has missed wide left, wide right and hit the uprights.
“Obviously, it’s not an easy fix, or it would have been fixed already,” he said. “It’s something where you have to come to work every day and have the right attitude for it.”
The question is whether Boswell will be given more chances to work his way out of his slump.
“Just like any other position, any other sport, you have to trust yourself and know that you got here for a reason,” Boswell said. “You kind of get back to doing ‘you’ and don’t worry about all the other little things.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.