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Thread: Boz is gonna have to earn his spot

  1. #31

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    2019 Pre-Training Camp Roster Review: Specialist

    By Matthew Marczi
    Posted on July 12, 2019

    The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2019 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor.

    We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position since the build-up to the draft as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.

    Position: Specialist

    Total Positional Figure: 6

    Additions: 3

    Deletions: 1

    Players Retained:

    Chris Boswell: I don’t know that there have been many instances in which a kicker goes from being recognized as one of the best in one season (Pro Bowl in 2017) to one of the worst a year later (missing 12 kicks and having competition brought in mid-season to challenge for his job). That was Boswell’s past two years. The hope is that he can find some middle ground between those two and return to being a solid option for the team. He won games for them in 2017 and lost them the next. The difference between a bye week and no playoffs at all.

    Jordan Berry: Berry has stuck around for a while now, which is significant given the carousel of punters they had since Daniel Sepulveda, but he regressed last season, and while a lot of talk has been about Boswell’s job being threatened, so is Berry’s. After all, he came in and overtook Brad Wing not so long ago.

    Kameron Canaday: Successor of Greg Warren, slayer of Colin Holba, Kameron Canaday has been at it for a couple years now, and has generally been solid. I could certainly go for the rest of my life without ever seeing a long snapper called for a hold twice in one game again though.

    Players Added:

    Matthew Wright: A UCF product who wasn’t even high on the draft boards at the kicker position, Wright is going to be Boswell’s competition in Latrobe. He made 12 of his 14 field goal attempts as a senior, with one of the misses being blocked. He had two of his three missed extra point attempts blocked as well.

    Ian Berryman: Unless someone else is brought in, the Steelers’ next punter will still have Berry in his last name regardless of what happens. Berryman did set the WCU record by averaging 43.6 yards per punt. He slumped a bit last year through injury.

    Trevor Wood: More of a tight end than a long snapper, Wood isn’t likely to be much of a threat to Canaday. He’s a longshot to make the roster period, and if he does, he would be the emergency long snapper and the third-string tight end.

    Players Deleted:

    Matt McCrane: One of the kickers brought in last year to compete against Boswell, he was signed ahead of the finale after the latter was injured and made three kicks in that game, including the winner. The team determined that he doesn’t have a strong enough leg, however, so they released him ahead of rookie minicamp, carrying only Boswell and Wright.

    Notes and Camp Outlook:

    Obviously, this will be one of the most contentious areas of the entire roster. Both kicker and punter jobs are on the line. Boswell stands to make $2 million in a roster bonus if he makes the team, so that is an element of this equation as well.

  2. #32

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    Rookies get 1st look if Steelers' kick specialists can't rebound

    By JIM WEXELL Jul 18

    Chris Boswell, PK, 2018: 13 for 20 FGs, 65%*; 43 for 48 XPs, 89.6%*.

    Jordan Berry, P, 2018: 63 punts for 2,753 yards, avg. 43.7, net 38.8*.

    (* - Denotes four-year career low)

    After all of the analysis was said and done, we realize the 9-6-1 Steelers missed the playoffs last season because of the little things.

    As the asterisks denote, those little things loom large on special teams, which means that just as Boswell and Berry came in together, they can go out together, too.

    That's not the preference of Mike Tomlin, who appreciates experience in his specialists, but of course Tomlin's not averse to seeking remedies if the aforementioned cannot revert to form.

    The remedies on hand might not be as good as those which will be available on the Sept. 1 waiver wire, but they are on hand and will get the first look if the veterans can't rebound.

    Matt Wright is the undrafted rookie placekicker. He was the kicker for 2017 national champion Central Florida, which really wasn't the national champ but took a parade through Orlando anyway. Its 13-0 season was capped by a win over Auburn, which had defeated eventual playoff champ Alabama, so it's something with which all UCF players have fun - even kickers.

    "I've talked to (Isaiah) Buggs about it a couple of times," Wright said with a smirk.

    Of course, Wright can take a poke at a big guy like Buggs, the rookie defensive lineman from Alabama, because Wright has Matt Feiler - one of the strongest offensive linemen on the team - in his corner.

    Wright came out of the same high school as Feiler - Lampeter-Strasburg of Lancaster in the eastern half of the state. Feiler was a 2010 graduate of L-S, the same year Wright entered the school as a freshman.

    Feiler is the only L-S grad to play in the NFL, and Wright hopes to become the second. What's obvious is the Steelers keep their eye on the L-S program.

    "I'd like to think so," Wright said with a laugh. "It's kind of crazy we're on the same team."

    The two have baseball in common. Both came out of that tradition-rich L-S program - Feiler a slugging third baseman and Wright a rangy shortstop.

    "We've been talking a little bit," Wright said during the final week of Steelers spring practices. "Our baseball team's in the state finals right now, so we talk about that every once in a while."

    Whereas Feiler had to make the NFL the hard way, through Division-2 Bloomsburg, Wright took a scholarship offer from D-1 Central Florida - and had his first field goal attempt blocked in the final moments of a one-point loss to Florida International. It begat a 12-game skid and the end of the George O'Leary era at UCF.

    In came Scott Frost and the rest is national championship mythology.

    Wright was part of a team that won 25 consecutive games before falling to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl, the last game in which Wright played.

    "It was quite the experience to go from the worst you can possibly be to winning everything," Wright said.

    He left as the school's all-time leader in points (375), field goals (55), extra points (212), consecutive extra points (153) and field goal percentage (77.5).

    His biggest kick?

    "Kicking in the Peach Bowl I made a couple of kicks," Wright said of 33 and 45-yarders in the 7-point win over Auburn. "And kicking in the Fiesta Bowl, I made a field goal at the end of the game to give us a chance. But I like to treat all the kicks the same. I don't think I have one kick that stands out to me."

    Wright's career long is 50 yards. He's 1-for-3 from 50-plus and 22-for-30 from 40-49.

    A better number is the 3.8 grade-point average, with which he graduated in Aerospace Engineering - the same field of study as quarterback Joshua Dobbs. But, unlike Dobbs, Wright has always wanted to be an astronaut.

    "It would be cool," Wright said. "But the more you look into that, you realize there are only like 30 astronauts in the world. And you've got to get your doctorate. I mean the NFL is a tough job but it doesn't require eight years of school. I don't know if that's what I want to do, but it would obviously be an awesome career."

    Of course, there are only 32 placekicking jobs in the NFL, so Wright's odds aren't much better here.

    "That's what everyone keeps telling me," Wright said. "But I'm here to do my best every day and see what comes of it."

    While Wright connected on only one 50-yarder in college, Ian Berryman, the undrafted rookie out of Western Carolina, connected on 56 of them.

    Of course, Berryman's a punter.

    He's the Western Carolina all-time leader with a 43.8 average, and can do all that comes with the job. He's kicked three extra points, a 31-yard field goal, held for three years, and even threw a touchdown pass out of a fake field goal last season.

    A former high school quarterback out of Marietta, Georgia, Berryman has the appearance of someone much younger than his 23 years. In fact, he looks like one of the young ball boys - until he pounds the football from one end line to the other at the Steelers' practice field on the South Side.

    And, yes, even punters have their role models. Berryman's is Pat McAfee, a Pittsburgh native who has gone on to podcast fame after a two-Pro Bowl, eight-year career with the Indianapolis Colts.

    Berryman graduated from Western Carolina with a 3.53 GPA in Broadcasting, so he's got that part of the McAfee model down.

    Is Berryman another one of those zany punters?

    "I wouldn't say I'm as out there as Pat is. I'm pretty low key," Berryman said. "But I like his style. And I emulate his style on the field. I watch his tape. We're both six foot, so we kind of have the same motion and all of that."

    All Berryman has to do now is win an NFL job.

    And, as Boswell and Berry know all too well, the hard part is keeping it.

  3. #33

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    Mike Prisuta

    Chris Boswell began the long climb back by going 8-for-8 on short field goals from various distances (Matthew Wright also 8-for-. These weren’t the pressure kicks Mike Tomlin insisted would be coming at the outset of camp. But it was at least a start for Boswell.

  4. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel View Post
    Mike Prisuta

    Chris Boswell began the long climb back by going 8-for-8 on short field goals from various distances (Matthew Wright also 8-for-. These weren’t the pressure kicks Mike Tomlin insisted would be coming at the outset of camp. But it was at least a start for Boswell.
    Knowing that he’s kicking for his job adds it own kind of pressure

    Molon labe

    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. George Orwell

    American metal pimped by asiansteel
    Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you 1. Jesus Christ, 2.The American G.I., One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

  5. #35

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    – Kickers got more work today. Chris Boswell connected from: 32, 32, 39, 41, 51, and 51. The latter of the 51 yarders was the “mayday,” end of game kick. So Boz was a perfect 6/6.

    Matthew Wright connected from: 32, 32, 39, and 41. He missed both of his 51 yard attempts. One fell short, landing near the back of the end zone, while the other veered slightly left. So he went 4/6. Leg strength is again an issue. He reminds me of Matt McCrane. I don’t view him as serious competition to Boswell. He’s now battling himself and the rest of the league, whoever becomes available during cutdowns.

  6. #36

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    Kevin Gorman: Pressure brings out best in Steelers kicker Chris Boswell

    KEVIN GORMAN | Wednesday, August 21, 2019

    Mike Tomlin promised to “create a little pressure” for Chris Boswell this preseason, pushing the fifth-year kicker to return to Pro Bowl form for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    That became the burning question throughout training camp: What constituted a pressure kick? The countdown kicks at Saint Vincent or the field-goal showdown during Family Fest at Heinz Field? Or were the Steelers saving it for game situations?

    “They’re all just kicks,” Boswell said with shrug. “The pressure is the outside stuff put on you. That never really changes anything about kicking. That doesn’t change when you kick. A kick is a kick. You’ve just got to play it by that.”

    But Boswell knows this: a miss isn’t just a miss.

    Too many more of those could cost Boswell his job, especially coming off a season in which he converted a career-worst 65 percent (13 of 20) field goals — including a pair of potential game-winners — and missed five extra points - 43 of 48.

    In an eight-minute interview at his locker Wednesday afternoon at UPMC Rooney Sports Performance Complex on the South Side — and, trust me, that’s an eternity for the soft-spoken Texan — Boswell took a shot at every question I asked.

    His answers split the uprights.

    It started with how he handled being asked about the Steelers signing Matthew Wright, a rookie from UCF, to challenge for kicking duties.

    “It’s good for everybody. Every other position has competition, per se. Why not have it for us?” Boswell said. “It does bring out the best in everybody. We’ll see where it goes.”

    Has it brought out the best in Boswell?

    “It’s taken me to another level,” Boswell said. “I’ve just got to keep it there.”

    So far, so good. Boswell is rising to the challenge this preseason, converting field goals of 33 and 47 yards in the opener against Tampa Bay and making all three extra-point attempts through the first two games. Wright converted a 42-yarder against Tampa Bay and a 46-yarder against Kansas City, as well as two extra points.

    But Boswell was more consistent in camp and has an advantage because of his history with the Steelers, what Tomlin might call an NFL resume and game tape. But Boswell was blunt when asked if he believes he’s back to his old form.

    “No, because it’s definitely a kick-to-kick game,” Boswell said of taking turns with Wright. “You could say that, and you could miss the next couple, and then you’re right back to thinking those things about last year. So I don’t get caught up in how it was last year. I don’t get caught up in how it was in my career. I’m here today, and I’m only worried about kicking it hard in practice. That’s about it.”

    It wasn’t long ago that Boswell was the toast of town — the Wizard of Boz, if you will — when he set a record for most field goals in a postseason game (six) at Kansas City in 2016 and followed that by kicking winning field goals as time expired in three consecutive games in 2017.

    Last season, Boswell became better known for his botches. It started in the season-opening tie at Cleveland. Stunning as it was to see him miss a potential winning field goal in overtime, you could blame the damp and dreary conditions.

    But his costly misses in close losses against Kansas City and at Denver, a game where he threw a touchdown pass to left tackle Alejandro Villanueva on a fake field goal, became cause for catcalls that the Steelers should cut Boswell only months after signing him to a four-year, $16.8-million contract extension.

    The low moment came at Oakland, when Boswell had a chance to kick a tying 40-yard field goal with five seconds left. Instead, as he stared into the Black Hole, his plant foot slid and he slipped. The 24-21 loss cost the Steelers a shot at making the playoffs, and Boswell’s job was clearly in jeopardy.

    “A lot of it’s on me. The kick is on me. My steps are on me. Everything’s on me,” Boswell said. “It’s one of those things where I had to just swallow it and move past it as fast as I could.”

    The hardest part for Boswell came when the Steelers placed him on injured reserve for the season finale against Cincinnati, and he had to watch Matt McCrane kick three field goals, including the winner from 35 yards with 1:56 remaining in the 16-13 victory.

    “Some things happened to where that had to happen,” Boswell said of his groin injury, “but it’s definitely not fun to watch somebody else do your job.”

    Sports Illustrated’s MMQB even headlined a story, “How Kicking Killed The 2018 Steelers — And What To Do About It For 2019,” where former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed suggested that Boswell’s problems were all mental.

    Boswell learned the hard way how not to listen to the critics.

    “I used to (care) a lot,” Boswell said. “I kind of learned that you’ve got to tune it out as best as you can, just not care about what anybody says. Everybody’s got an opinion about you. I’ve got an opinion about me. When I’m out there, it’s me against me. It’s not me against what everybody is saying about me.

    “Over the years — whether it was my Pro Bowl year, when I missed one kick and people come at you the wrong way, or whether it was last year, when a lot went wrong so it was more, even the good years I had here — as soon as I miss people are willing to jump on you. The more you pay attention to it, the more you think about it.”

    That’s a sign of progress. After missing at Cleveland, Boswell kicked 42-yarders from the right hash in the dark from the same spot at the Steelers’ indoor complex. Where I saw it at the time as a sign of his willingness to work on a weakness, in hindsight it might have showed that he was having a hard time letting go.

    The Steelers had Boswell work this past spring with former kicker Shaun Suisham, who warned him that it was only burning the miss into his brain. Suisham told him to live kick to kick, and Boswell hasn’t had a choice by sharing them with Wright.

    Then there’s the matter of the $2 million roster bonus that the Steelers pushed back on Boswell.

    “That’s not something I’ve even thought about,” Boswell said. “I’m worried about the season and worried about being here.”

    That’s what appears different about Boswell’s mentality. He has a laser-like focus, knowing that every kick counts. But he’s more concerned with his next kick than the big picture.

    “I’m tuning that part out because at the drop of a hat, it could be the other way again,” Boswell said. “I’m going to be here doing my job as long as they want me here, as long as they’ll have me. If the fans love me, that’s great. But when I’m out there, it’s just me against me.

    “It’s the business we’re in. It’s the life of a kicker. It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately game. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to at all last year, but I’ve just got to keep rolling with it.”

    For Boswell, it’s about the next kick. He has experienced the highs of hitting game-winners, and he knows the lows of missing kicks that cost the Steelers a victory.

    So it comes down to this: Split the uprights. Or else.

    No pressure.


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