To say Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell had an atrocious 2018 would be sugar coating it. Coming off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2017, Boswell was rewarded with a four year $16.8 million extension. The extension included a $6 million signing bonus. The amount of dead money that would have come due was thought to have been the primary reason the Steelers did not jettison him during a season where Boswell connected on just 65% of his field goal attempts. The percentage was the worst of any kicker in the NFL who played in at least 15 games by over 11% and 32% behind league-leading Robbie Gould. The former Rice Owl was just as bad on extra points finishing last in the league with at least 15 games played. (89.6%)
The missed opportunities started right out of the gate in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns when Boswell missed a game-winning 42-yard field goal in overtime. The miss was not the only one that cost the Steelers a chance to win games during the season. During the six losses in the season, Boswell missed two extra points and four field goals. The three-point loss at the hands of the Oakland Raiders exemplifies his season-long struggles. Boswell missed a 54-yard field goal midway through the first quarter but it was the second one that had Steelers fans seething mad. Pittsburgh could tie the game at 24 when Boswell came on with 21 seconds remaining. The attempt never stood a chance with Boswell’s plant foot came out from underneath of him with a chunk of Oakland turn.
Pittsburgh kept enough faith in Boswell that the team paid a $2 million roster bonus in March, but that faith was questioned when the team signed undrafted rookie free agent Matthew Wright immediately following the NFL Draft to provide competition.
Wright had an excellent career at the University of Central Florida where he started all four years. The former Golden Knight converted 210 of a possible 213 extra points while making 154 of 155 the past two seasons.
Field goal conversion was shaky with a 77.5 percent conversion rate over his career with a long of 50 yards.
13 of 17 field goals
4 of 7 over forty yards.
17 of 17 extra points
2016 highlights (Sophomore)
17 of 22 field goals
Nine field goals over 40 yards
39 of 41 extra points
50 yarder against UConn
2017 highlights (Junior)
13 of 18 field goals
80 of 81 extra points. (First attempt of the season was blocked.)
47 yarder against Cincinnati
23 of his 104 kickoffs resulted in a touchback
Named Second Team All-Conference
2018 highlights (Senior)
12 of 14 field goals
Season-long field goal of 46
29 touchbacks on 97 kickoffs
Named to American Athletic Conference Second Team
The jury is still out whether the competition is real or just a fire under Boswell to get his head on straight in 2019. If Wright performs well and Boswell struggles the Steelers will have a mighty tough decision to make. A Boswell release would come with a $6.8 million cap hit while Wright would count about $500K. Wright would have to check off boxes on accuracy and leg strength before any such a move would occur. Wright was not asked to kick many field goals over 50 yards but from his highlight reels, his leg strength does not appear to be of grave concern.
Even if Boswell wins the kicker battle, he should be on a short leash during the season.