The Pittsburgh Steelers have a problem on their special teams units, and it has nothing to do with anyone who is running, blocking or tackling. It has everything to do with the players who are, or could be, tasked with kicking field goals, extra points and kickoffs.
Obviously, I’m talking about Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright.
Boswell missed this second straight game in Week 17 due to a groin injury, and his third game of the season, and Matthew Wright filled in, doing so admirably. Wright hasn’t even come close to missing a kick since he has been promoted to the 53-man roster, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his limitations.
While accuracy is his forte, leg strength is his Achilles heel. Going back to his time at Central Florida Wright has never been known as having a big leg, and in the NFL he has never been tested for a field goal outside of 46 yards, to date. In the Week 17 game vs. the Cleveland Browns, Wright did hit two 46 yard kicks, and it looked like he had room to spare on both attempts.
With that said, take a look at Wright’s 2020 season statistics thus far:
Games Played: 3
Field Goals: 4/4
Distance on kicks: 37, 29, 46, 46
Extra Points: 7/7
At this point, the question isn’t just what Wright has done, but what can he do if he is called on to fill in for Boswell in the AFC Playoffs. If a kicker can’t hit a 50-yard field goal to win a playoff game, should he be on the roster? On top of field goal attempts, Wright struggles to drive kickoffs into the end-zone for touchbacks. If the Steelers’ kickoff teams are on point, it can work to their advantage; however, you run the risk of a big return and losing the field position game before the defense even steps onto the field.
During his Tuesday press conference, Mike Tomlin was asked about his comfort level with Wright, if he was forced into action for a fourth time this season.
“I’m comfortable with [Matthew] Wright.” Tomlin said. “He is putting the ball through the uprights and that’s job one. We’ll support him in the kickoff coverage area with quality coverage if need be.”
As if Boswell will return and be able to kick for the Steelers when it matters most, Tomlin gave a stock answer.
“Boz [Chris Boswell]’s participation and the quality of it throughout the week will determine if he is in uniform on Sunday.”
How important is a kicker in the postseason? Considering the Steelers have had six of their wins be within a score, not just a field goal, it is huge to have a kicker who can do it all.
Consider this scenario:
The Steelers are trailing by two, with two minutes remaining and two timeouts. They drive into the opponent’s territory and have set up a 4th and 4, on what would be a 51-yard field goal attempt to take the lead. In the Steelers’ situation, with Wright kicking, they would likely have to go for it, with possibly little-to-no time remaining, instead of trying a game-winning field goal.
So, yes, in my opinion a kicker certainly matters in certain situations. If we want to look at the position through our black and gold colored glasses, all the Steelers would need is Wright to kick extra points, but that wouldn’t be realistic.
What do you think? Are the Steelers putting themselves behind the 8-ball if they have to go into the playoffs with Wright kicking? Sure, the hope is Boswell returns, but if he can’t, what are your thoughts? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Browns in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs.