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Chris Boswell’s camp performance is encouraging, but he still has to prove he can do it when it counts

Kicking well at training camp is one thing. But until Chris Boswell proves he can kick to his past standards during the regular season, he won’t truly be over the hump.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The early word out of Steelers training camp is that kicker Chris Boswell, the man who struggled mightily a season ago, is back to his old Pro Bowl self.

He has yet to miss a field goal or extra point try (as of this writing, anyway), and he’s even nailing kicks from 50-yards plus—and with room to spare.

After missing on only 10 of his 105 field goal attempts, and on only three of his 102 extra point tries between 2015-2017, Boswell went 13 for 20 and 43 for 48 in each category last year.

Therefore, the fact that he’s coming through in clutch situations—including some “time running down” drills— out at Latrobe is rather encouraging.

It also says something that Boswell looks to be back to his old self despite being pushed by Matthew Wright, an undrafted rookie from UCF.

Unlike recent years when Pittsburgh signed kickers in the offseason, Wright didn’t come to training camp to act as an extra leg or to get some exposure for possible employment elsewhere. He came to town with a decent to better chance of taking Boswell’s job.

That, alone, is a fair amount of pressure, especially for the profession of NFL kicker, where the supply of legs normally far surpasses the number of job openings.

Training camp or not, all eyes have been on Boswell so far in camp. Any miss would be scrutinized and dissected, not only by the fans and the media, but by his coaches.

Speaking of pressure (perhaps the ultimate pressure), Boswell even agreed to defer his $2 million roster bonus until the end of the preseason (he likely didn’t have a real say in this matter—he either had to “agree” to this or get cut before camp even started).

The scrutiny of his coaches, legit competition from another leg and the prospect of losing out on $2 million. That is quite a bundle of pressure Boswell has stared down thus far.

Of course, training camp is one thing, but an NFL stadium is quite another story.

Boswell will get to see how he performs inside one of those stadiums this Friday night, when the Steelers take on the Buccaneers at Heinz Field in the first preseason game of 2019.

If Boswell performs up to his past standards, not just this Friday but throughout the duration of the preseason, the smart money is on him keeping his job and his roster bonus—no matter what Matthew Wright does.

Having said that, until Boswell proves he can ace his regular season kicking tests (the only tests that matter), it will be hard to believe he’s truly back to his old self.

Yes, what Boswell is doing at camp right now is awesome. It shows that his mechanics are on point, and that he hasn’t lost any leg strength. You don’t have to be an expert to know that so much of what goes into kicking a football accurately is mechanical—approach, kick and follow through. As an avid bowler, I can tell you that one little glitch in my approach, release and/or follow through can be the difference between a 100 or 200.

So, if Boswell’s season-long struggles in 2018 stemmed from mechanics that may have been compromised following a critical overtime miss at rainy Cleveland in Week 1, he’s probably clear of his problems.

But what if Boswell’s season-long struggles were mental and stemmed from that aforementioned critical miss in Week 1?

That’s a whole different animal and a dragon that Boswell may not truly slay until his first critical field goal try of the 2019 regular season.

We’ll have to wait and see on that, but at least Chris Boswell’s right leg is alive and well.

As for his career with the Steelers? He still has a few more tests to ace—including a big final exam in September.