While it would be fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 roster looks to be set at several positions, there are still a handful of starting roles yet to be decided and a number of backup up jobs remain up for grabs.
Over the coming weeks, BTSC editor Jeff Hartman and myself will take a look at some of the more obvious key names that will be fighting position battles throughout minicamp, OTAs and training camp later in the year, each taking a different side in the fight and providing our thoughts on why our pick will be the winner.
So far we have weighed in on the impending battles between quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph, running backs Jaylen Samuel and Benny Snell Jr. wide receivers James Washington and Donte Moncrief, tackles Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor, linebackers Devin Bush and Mark Barron, cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton and slot receivers Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer. Today we move onto the kickers.
Chris Boswell vs. Matthew Wright
If not for a report last week that confirmed the date of Chris Boswell’s roster bonuses had been deferred until after the Steelers last preseason game, the prospect of any genuine camp battle between the veteran kicker and Matthew Wright was highly debatable. But there can be little doubt that the coaching staff has been freed up to make the correct decision without worrying about the financial ramifications of the move.
Assuming Boswell can regain the form that earned him a Pro Bowl berth in 2018, he will make short work of the competition, but the former crowd favorite was far from that standard last season. And given that releasing him will save now the team a total of $3 million in 2019, Boswell may yet find he has to go above and beyond this offseason to convince the team he is worth keeping over the much cheaper rookie.
While Wright is a kicker playing with house money, Boswell is someone who has the experience necessary to right the ship. Fans have seen Boswell be too good for too long to watch him just go the way of the Dodo and lose his spot.
2018 was bad. Period. But that doesn’t mean this will be the future for Boswell. Injury or not, I see Boswell having a bounce back season and earning his big contract which he was given prior to the 2018 season.
Wright will push Boswell more so than other kickers who have spent time with the Steelers in camp, and this could be just what the doctor ordered for a kicker who might just need a little push to get him back on track.
I like Boswell to rebound in a big way in 2019.
Coming in with very little to lose, Wright ended his career at the the University of Central Florida as the all-time leader in points and recording a success rate of 78.1-percent on his field goals. And while this is far from an elite level by NFL standards, it is far better than the mark of 65-percent that Boswell achieved in 2018.
How well each player performs in training will be just one aspect of the competition, but with live game situations limited and effectively impossible to replicate in practice, making the most of preseason opportunities will be vital for both men.
If Boswell is still struggling with the issues that plagued him last year or fails to impress when called upon, it may not take too much to convince the coaching staff to go in a different direction. And if the battle is close during practice, just one or two missed kicks in one of the four preseason games could spell doom for either player. The kicker who handles this pressure best is likely to be the one who wins the job. But based on what we saw last year, it is hard to be overly confident in Boswell at this stage.
My heart say to go with the incumbent, but my head says the Steelers will have a new kicker when the season begins. A name that might not yet be in Pittsburgh if the right option gets released elsewhere.
Who wins this camp battle?
This poll is closed