Would you trust Chris Boswell to make a game-winning field goal right now? Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin would and that’s all that matters at this point in time.
In his weekly press conference Tomlin was asked, as he has been several weeks in a row now, about his and the team’s confidence in Boswell. A 2017 Pro-Bowler with a hefty new pay raise, Boswell has struggled in 2018. He has made only three of six field goal attempts and has missed three of 17 PATs. That knowledge in hand, Tomlin is standing by his man and he made a decent argument as to why.
“That guy has made a lot of big kicks and has made me look good walking out of here and in Cincinnati where we play this week. He didn’t suddenly forget how to kick,” Tomlin said.
I don’t disagree with Coach Tomlin. Boswell hasn’t forgotten how to kick but clearly there is something that isn’t right. This is a guy who had been one of the more reliable and consistent kickers over the last couple of years and now suddenly he’s shakier than a roller coaster at Kennywood.
Football locker rooms can be a lot like high schools. What guys say to the media or in front of a microphone is far different than what they say to each other in private. I have to wonder if there aren’t some members of the team starting to internally question the confidence of their kicker. From what I am told no one is calling for his ouster but guys have questions and that’s perfectly acceptable.
I think the good news for Boswell is that this isn’t like former pro golfer Ian Baker-Finch. The former British Open Champion stepped to the tee one day and couldn’t find the fairway with a GPS tracker on his forehead. His game was gone and there was little explanation for it. Boswell’s misses have either been close or they’ve actually hit the uprights. There’s a little bit of positive news there. But misses are misses. He’s paid to make kicks and he’s not making them consistently enough.
The other bit of good news for Boswell is that cutting him would not be financially good for the Steelers. Now signed through 2022, if the Steelers were to have had enough of his misses they’d be on the hook for essentially $2,495,000 in dead money in 2018 and $4.8 million in dead money in 2019. On top of that, the Steelers have already paid out 5 weeks of Boswell’s $705,000 base salary for 2018. Looking to the future, the $4.8 million in dead money in 2019 would be a $600,000 cap loss over Boswell’s projected $4.2 million 2019 cap hit. That being said, part of Boswell’s 2019 compensation is a $2 million roster bonus and a $1 million base salary. So while the Steelers would have an increased 2019 cap hit if they cut Boswell now, they could save $3 million in real dollars if they do not have to pay his roster bonus or base salary.
Steelers Nation always has favorites and it extends its’ patience more to some players than it does to others. Right now Boswell is getting a pass from not only Tomlin but the fan base as well and that includes a kick that would have beaten Cleveland. How much longer this lasts is anyone’s guess but I have a theory. Eventually he’s going to face another game-winning kick and it could be this weekend or it could be in a month but regardless the outcome in that situation could likely spell his fate.
Ian contributed to this article.