PITTSBURGH — Plenty of professional football players are going through the 2019 offseason wishing they’d had a better go of it in 2018.
Steelers kicker Chris Boswell might be right up at the top of that last.
The 2017 Pro Bowler had built a stellar reputation in his first three seasons in the league, making 90 percent of his kicks and showing a knack for connecting on big kicks in late-game situations.
Last summer, the Steelers signed Boswell to a five-year contract worth $20 million, making him the fifth-highest paid kicker in the NFL.
Then came a 2018 season that couldn’t have gone any worse for Boswell.
He made just 13 of 20 (65%) on the season, and furthermore, missed several kicks in some critical losses as the Steelers slipped to 9-6-1 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
In the team’s six losses and one tie, Boswell was 6 for 11 (54.5%). Four of those games were decided by a field goal or less. Flip any into the win column, and the Steelers would have found themselves in the postseason.
Boswell spent the end of that run on the injured reserve, having been placed their after he went 2 for 2 in Week 15’s loss at New Orleans.
Speaking to reports at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side on Tuesday for the first time since then, Boswell didn’t want to talk about his injury or how it might have affected him during the 2018 season.
“That’s not something that is ever going to be shared,” Boswell said. “I had some long meetings with a lot of people and just kind of getting to the bottom of everything. I’m try to have a nice foundation going into camp and the season.”
He just wants to move on and focus on the ongoing battle to re-claim his starting position. Somewhat surprisingly, his plan to go about doing that is to do — exactly what he did last season.
“I’m going to stick to what I did going into my fourth year here,” Boswell said. “It didn’t work last year, but I’m not just going to scratch everything.”
There will be competition at the kicker position, but it won’t be the one most expected this offseason. Matt McCrane, who the Steelers signed after Boswell was put on the injured reserve, was released after rookie camp, leaving just UCF rookie Matthew Wright to compete with Boswell. Wright made 85.7% of his kicks as a senior with the Knights, but Boswell isn’t concerned about the nature of the competition.
He knows that if he can regain the form that led him to a Pro Bowl season and a hefty contract, the Steelers will stick by him. If he can’t, they probably won’t, whether it ends up being Wright or another kicker. That’s the competition that he’s focusing on as he prepares for 2019.
“No matter who’s out here, it’s me versus me, it’s not me versus anybody,” he said. “As long as I can conquer that, I should be pretty good.”
Report: Steelers QB Coach Matt Canada Tested Positive for COVID-19
Steelers quarterbacks coach Matt Canada has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report by Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network.
#Steelers QB coach Matt Canada has indeed tested #COVID positive, but I’m told by multiple sources that QB Ben Roethlisberger was not deemed a close contact who needs to self isolate. Roethlisberger already went thru this once after sitting on the plane next to a Covid+ teammate.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) November 29, 2020
The Steelers announced earlier on Saturday that Canada, along with special teams coordinator Danny Smith, will not coach in the team’s game against the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday due to illnesses.
Kinkhabwala reported that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not considered a close contact of Canada’s and will not have to isolate for five days, as he did when tight end Vance McDonald tested positive earlier this season.
Smith has also tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Steelers announced that assistant wide receivers coach Blaine Stewart will replace Smith. They did not announce a replacement for Canada.
Matt Canada, Danny Smith Will Not Coach for Steelers vs. Ravens
Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada will not participate in the team’s game Tuesday night against the Baltimore Ravens, the team announced on Saturday.
The Steelers said both coaches will not participate due to illness. Smith has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report by the Post-Gazette.
Smith will be replaced by assistant wide receivers coach Blaine Stewart, the team announced. The club did not announced a direct replacement for Canada.
The team has not had any coaches miss any games this season due to COVID-19 issues.
Reports: Steelers RB James Conner, Coach Danny Smith Test Positive for COVID-19
Steelers running back James Conner and special teams coordinator Danny Smith have tested positive for COVID-19, according to reports by Adam Schefter of ESPN, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network and Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette.
Conner, the Steelers’ starting running back, is a cancer survivor. Smith, 67 is in his eighth season with the Steelers and 25th as an NFL coach.
James Conner is the #Steelers player who tested positive for #COVID, multiple sources tell me. He is awaiting a second test tomorrow to confirm these results. Contact tracing continues. And as w/ every positive case in the #NFL and country… here’s to recoveries and good health.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) November 28, 2020
Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, per sources
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) November 28, 2020
The news comes on the heels of the team placing three players — defensive linemen Isaiah Buggs and Stephon Tuitt and tackle Jerald Hawkins — on the COVID-19 reserve list on Friday.
Tracing for close contacts is underway. Schefter reported that Conner has multiple close contacts that will have to be isolated from the team.
More positives in Pittsburgh: One coach and one player tested positive with multiple contacts in Pittsburgh, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 28, 2020
With the Steelers scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on Tuesday, Conner, the three players placed on the COVID-19 list on Friday and all additional positive cases and close contacts will miss the game.
Conner will likely be replaced by second-year backup Benny Snell. Chris Wormley and Henry Mondeaux will fill in for Tuitt and Buggs on the defensive line, if available. Derwin Gray will be elevated to the top backup at tackle without Hawkins.
The Steelers did not practice on Friday and are not scheduled to practice on Saturday. They are scheduled to return to practice on Sunday.
The Steelers previously had guard Kevin Dotson on the COVID-19 reserve list, while tight end Vance McDonald came off the list this week after missing one game.