When examining a Steelers offense that had been about as stingy with points as your dad used to be with your allowance, the November 10 announcement that kicker Chris Boswell was being placed on Injured Reserve must have been quite alarming.
Boswell has morphed into one of the best kickers in the NFL since joining the Steelers as a replacement during the 2015 campaign; thankfully, he’s seemingly upped his game another notch or two in recent years, a bleak, dark, dreary period in team history when it comes to offensive output.
Surely, no kicker could possibly come in and match Boswell’s production, right?
You might have thought that about Matthew Wright, who the Steelers signed to take Boswell’s spot on the active roster. Those thoughts may have grown into genuine anxiety when Wright, who also briefly kicked for the Steelers late in the 2020 campaign, missed two of his four attempts during a 20-10 victory over the Saints at Acrisure Stadium on November 13. One of those misses was so wide to the left, one had to wonder if Wright had made a prop bet against himself.
I certainly couldn’t have blamed anyone if they had placed a bet on Wright’s stay in Pittsburgh not being all that long and/or successful.
But Wright managed to quickly recover from his disastrous 2022 Steelers debut and has been perfect ever since, even if two of his recent successful kicks doinked off the uprights before bouncing in.
One such successful doink occurred on Sunday in a game against the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Yes, one week after doinking a kick in the domed home of the Colts, Wright’s first field-goal attempt in the Falcons' domed venue, from 46 yards out, doinked off the right upright.
Wright would go on to make three more field goals on the day—including another from 46 yards away and one from 48 yards out—to finish four for four.
Those 12 points were vital in a 19-16 victory that improved Pittsburgh’s record to 5-7.
Wright hasn’t missed a field goal since the two against New Orleans and has converted on 12 of 14 attempts since taking over for Boswell.
Wright has converted on five of six field goals from 40-plus yards and has made his lone attempt from 50-plus. Wright has also been successful on all seven of his extra-point attempts since joining the Steelers.
Wright, 26, has been the proverbial journeyman kicker since making his professional debut with the Steelers two years ago. He spent 2021 with the Jaguars and converted on 21 of 24 field goal tries. He spent two games with the Chiefs early in the 2022 season and was successful on three of four field goal attempts as a replacement kicker.
Wright has converted on 40 of his 46 field goal attempts during his brief career and has only missed on two of his 37 extra-point tries.
Wright’s leg strength may be a little suspect on kickoffs, but certainly not when attempting field goals. Wright has converted on six of eight attempts from 50-plus yards during his three-year career and even has a 59-yarder on his resume.
The Steelers, and every other NFL franchise, are sure lucky that there is an overabundance of strong-legged kickers, not only on active rosters but also on practice squads—and even couches—waiting for an opportunity.
It wasn’t long ago that you could count established NFL kickers with Wright’s accuracy and leg strength on one hand (or foot). Today, you can find them everywhere.
I don’t know if Matthew Wright will ever find a full-time role as a kicker in the NFL, but he sure seems cut out for the job.
The Next Man Up mantra is usually one of fantasy, but not when it comes to replacement kickers in today’s NFL.