Decide Steelers Nation: Was Chris Boswell’s Shoe String Tackle or 6 Field Goals More Important?

It’s safe to say that, without kicker Chis Boswell’s six field goals–including an amazing three from 49 yards away–the Steelers may not have walked away with a narrow and important 24-20 victory over the Bengals‘ at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

  • But it may be even safer to assume that, without Boswell’s tackling heroics late in the second quarter, those six field goals may not have led to a victory.

Shortly after Chris Boswell‘s second field goal of the day drew Pittsburgh to within 17-6, Bengals return man Alex Erickson pulled in the subsequent kickoff at his own two-yard line and proceeded to cut quickly to the left, where he found a lane down the sideline.

 Chris Boswell's shoe-string tackle Alex Erickson, Chris Boswell, Alex Erickson, 2016 Steelers vs. Bengals Paul Brown Staidum

Alex Erickson felled by Chris Boswell channeling his inner Ben Roethlisberger for a touchdown saving shoe string tackle. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune Review

Alex Erickson showed a tremendous burst, and didn’t appear to be touched by a single Steelers special teams player as he broke into the clear. At this point, it sure looked like the rookie was about to turn a 17-6 deficit into the 24-6 variety for the Black and Gold visitors.

  • “What’s up with the special teams?” you may have been screaming to yourself or out-loud at that very second.

In fairness to Pittsburgh’s kickoff coverage, how often do players get to practice actual returns these days, with the vast-majority being downed in the end zone in the name of safety? (The NFL moved the kickoff up  to the 35-yard line in recent years, and starting this season, if a player downs one in the end zone, his offense gets the ball at the 25.)

Anyway, Alex Erickson had one man to beat, as he broke into the clear– Chris Boswell–and he actually did manage to maneuver past him; as kickers often do in that situation, Chris Boswell dived head-first in a desperate attempt to grab the returner’s leg, foot, anything.

  • And, lo and behold, it actually worked this time, as Chis Boswell got just enough of Alex Erickson to trip him up and bring him down at the 26.

For the record, Artie Burns did arrive on the scene but he likely would not have caught Erickson without Boswell’s shoe string tackle.

So what looked like a 98-kickoff return for a touchdown (something that’s becoming about as rare in football as hitting for the cycle is in baseball), became a 72-yard run that merely set up a Randy Bullock field goal and a slightly more manageable two-touchdown deficit for the Steelers, whose 18 unanswered points from that moment on proved to be enough for a victory.

So I leave it for you to decide, which was more important:

Chris Boswell’s shoe-string tackle of Alex Erickson may quickly be forgotten and will surely never be placed on the same historic level as Ben Roethlisberger’s official “The Tackle” in the waning seconds of the 2005 Divisional Playoffs against the Colts.

But if the Steelers go on to beat the Ravens to win the AFC North and then make a Super Bowl run, Chris Boswell’s overall performance vs. the Bengals (you can’t forget about those six field goals…obviously) may go down as one of the most clutch by any player in recent memory.

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