Sometimes Ball Just Bounces Your Way: Steelers Sign Chris Boswell to 4 Year Contract

Sometimes the ball bounces your way. As Chris Boswell’s new contact with the Steelers show, the ball has (often) bounced Pittsburgh’s way when it has come to place kickers.

The Steelers resigned Chris Boswell today, inking the veteran kicker to a 4 year contact that will keep the Boz in Pittsburgh through the 2022 season. Chris Boswell had been a restricted free agent but the Steelers protected him with a 2nd round tender and not team was tempted to offer Boswell a contract.

Chris Boswell, Steelers vs Ravens, Chris Boswell contract

Chris Boswell kicks game winner for Steelers vs Ravens in December 2017

4th Time is the Charm Boswell, Steelers

Chris Boswell has been one of the NFL’s most dependable kickers since arriving in Pittsburgh during the fall of 2015 that it is almost hard to remember that an uncanny series of calamities brought him to the Steelers.

It started with the Hall of Fame game during the year when Jerome Bettis finally earned induction into the NFL Hall of Fame when Shaun Suisham got injured. The Steelers went out and signed Garrett Hartley. Hartley lasted for a few preseason games, but then he got hurt, forcing the Steelers bring in Josh Scobee via trade.

Josh Scobee worked out well enough for the first few games, but in the Steelers game against the Ravens Josh Scobee missed two field goals in a game that ended 20-23, and Mike Tomlin promptly sent his 3rd place kicker of the season packing.

But Boswell immediately delivered, making several clutch kicks for the Steelers, incluging the game winner during their comeback playoff victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, and scoring all of the team’s points in the 2016 playoff win over the Chiefs.

Boswell also made a hell of a shoestring tackle against the Bengals in a key AFC North showdown in another six field goal performance.

Steelers Luck with Kickers Generally Good

Notwithstanding the injury misfortune that led the Steelers to sign Chris Boswell, the Steelers as a franchise have generally had good luck finding kickers when they’ve needed them. The Steelers wanted to draft Gary Anderson in 1982, but the Bills beat them to it. Buffalo cut him, and Anderson was a fixture for the next decade.

When a contract dispute led Anderson to seek greener pastures, the Steelers landed Norm Johnson, who kicked well for 3 years. Kris Brown had his ups and downs, and the Steelers tried to replace him in 2003 Todd Peterson, but he didn’t work out.

  • But the Steelers were able to replace him with Jeff Reed.

When Jeff Reed ran into issues, they were able to sign Shaun Suisham, who arrived in Pittsburgh with a questionable record, but turned out to be a clutch performer in his own right.

When it comes to finding quality place kickers, the ball has generally bounced Pittsburgh’s way.

Steelers Also ReInk Vince Willams

Shortly after resigning Boswell, Steelers also made another move by resigning inside linebacker Vince Williams to a four year extension. Steel Curtain Rising will have more to say on the Vince Williams signing so stay tuned.

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No Time to Say “Bye” to the Boz. Why Steelers Must Resign Chris Boswell, Place Kicker Extraordinaire

NFL kickers are curious characters. In the pre-digital age, in the “Overview” section of Steelers Digest, Bob Labriola took similar questions — and dished out similar answers — to his sessions on “Asked and Answered.” If memory serves, Labriola’s retort to a reader’s question about Gary Anderson’s Hall of Fame potential with:

  • “The Hall of Fame is for football players. Gary Anderson is a kicker.”

Wow. And if part of me feels compelled to take issue Labriola’s harshness, I’m forced to confess I once penned a missive comparing Steelers placekickers to ex-girlfriends. And while its a great read, if I do say so myself, who would ever dream of writing a similar article about Steelers linebackers?

  • I daresay you wouldn’t.

But if we can quibble over whether placekickers are legitimate football players, the Steelers 2017 season reinforced the crystal clear reality that quality place kicking makes a legitimate difference in the outcomes of football games. That’s a lesson everyone much remember as popular Pittsburgh place kicker Chris Boswell reaches restricted free agency, and the Steelers braintrust decides his future in the Steel City.

Chris Boswell, Chris Boswell steelers restricted free agent, Steelers vs Packers

Chris Boswell kicks a 53 yarder to put Pittsburgh over Green Bay in 2017. Photo Credit: Charles LeClarie, USA Today, via Lindysports.com

Capsule Profile of Chris Bowsell’s Steelers Career

Speaking of popular Steelers kickers, Shaun Suisham sure was one of them, after taking over for the once-popular–and just released–Jeff Reed midway through the 2010 season. In four-plus years in Pittsburgh, Suisham connected on 87.9 percent of his field goals attempts. Unfortunately, exactly one year after signing a contract-extension, Suisham was lost for the 2015 campaign with a torn ACL suffered in the Hall of Fame Game against the Vikings.

After a couple of veteran replacements didn’t work out–including Josh Scobee, who came to town via trade in late August–Boswell won a tryout following Scobee’s release just four weeks into the ’15 season.

Boswell proved to be an accurate replacement right from the start, connecting on 29 of 32 attempts during his rookie season. He also hit the game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the wild, wild-card win against the Bengals, giving the Steelers their first playoff victory in five years.

Boswell wasn’t as accurate in 2016, making 21 of 25 tries, but he was the hero of sorts in the divisional round match-up against the Chiefs, providing the only offense with six field goals in an 18-16 victory.

  • Last season was Boswell’s finest so far, as he connected on 35 of 38 attempts, and was fourth in the NFL with 142 points.

Boswell’s highlights included four-straight game-winning field goals–including three on the final play–during Pittsburgh’s eight-game winning-streak.

The Case For The Steelers Tendering Chris Boswell

Good kickers might not be hard so find in 2018, but the great ones sure are. With an 89.5 career percentage on field goal attempts–including just under 95 percent in 2017–it appears Boswell, 26, is just hitting his stride.

Furthermore, Boswell not only has the accuracy, he has the leg, as evidenced by connecting on six of eight attempts from 50-plus yards so far during his career–including a 53-yard game-winner against the Packers last season at Heinz Field, a place that’s notoriously tough on kickers. kickers.

According to spotrac.com, Suisham’s contract extension in 2014 included a signing bonus of $2.85 million–a number that’s always prorated over the life of a deal–and a base salary of $855,000 that year.

With those numbers in mind, it stands to reason a new deal for Boswell, whose base salary was $615,000 in 2017, shouldn’t cost Pittsburgh much more.

The Case Against The Steelers Resigning Chris Boswell

It’s certainly possible the Steelers could find a cheaper alternative this summer in a training camp invite. After all, who was Chris Boswell, who was Shaun Suisham, who was Jeff Reed, who were any number of really accurate NFL kickers throughout history before they latched on with a team?

Do the Steelers really want to devote such a significant portion of their salary cap dollars to a kicker?

Curtain’s Call On the Steelers And Chris Boswell 

Of the many personnel decisions the Steelers will have to make this spring, the contract status of Boswell is probably at the bottom of the list, and that’s because it’s a no-brainer.

The Steelers should certainly offer a restricted free agent tender Chris Boswell and, ideally, Kevin Colbert should offer him a long-term contract to keep him kicking in Pittsburgh for a long time.

Has Steelers free agency left you scrambling? Click here for our Steelers 2018 Free Agent tracker or click here for all Steelers 2018 free agency focus articles.

 

 

 

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Better Luck to Randy Bullock: Past Steelers Emergency Kickers have Struggled

Better Luck to Randy Bullock: Past Steelers Emergency Kickers have Struggled

News that a Chris Boswell abdomen injury forced the Steelers to sign Randy Bullock sent shockwaves through Steelers Nation just 24 hours before the Steelers critical matchup with the New York Giants at Heinz Field.

  • And so it should, Chris Boswell has proven to be a very accurate kicker and beyond that, a pretty good clutch kicker.

But Steeles Nation’s collective trepidation is also felt so deeply because past history of Steelers emergency kickers has been pretty dismal. Or it should say, history of “Steelers emergency kicker” because in the modern era, the Steelers have only had to go to their “Spare Parts” list to sign a kicker once.

Steelers Emergency Kickers of Yesteryear

It happened in mid-November 1998, when a Norm Johnson strained calf muscle forced the Steelers to sign Matt George, and it is not an experience Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, Danny Smith or anyone else in Steelers Nation would wish to repeat.

  • There were red flags around this move even before Matt George’s foot touched the pigskin.

The Steelers had brought Matt George to training camp with them that summer, but cut him in late August. In other words, they’d seen enough of him to know that he wasn’t their first choice of a “in case of emergency break glass” kicker.

The Steelers brought Brett Conway to Three Rivers Stadium, gave him a tryout, and negotiated with him for two days, thinking they had a deal in place. Then suddenly, Brett Conway left the building.

Brett Conway left on the advice of his agent, after the Washington Redskins offered him spot on their practice squad, infuriating Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher.

The Steelers signed Matt George, who, after missing several kicks during pre-game warmups, kicked low on a 36 yard field goal kick which the Tennessee Oilers blocked.

The Steelers instead went for it on 4th down, only to have Kordell Stewart stopped. The Titans took the lead on the next drive on an Al Del Greco field goal. In desperation, the Steelers tried to lateral their way to retake the lead with time expiring, but the Oilers ran in a loose ball to score an insurance touchdown.

For the record, the Tennessee Oilers won the game 23 to 10 thereby completing their first (and only, at least as the “Tennessee Oilers”) season sweep of the Steelers. Norm Johnson returned the following week and kicked through the end of the 1999 season. Although Matt George wasn’t the only reason the Steelers lost the game, he never played another down in the NFL.

  • As Bill Cowher candidly confided after the game, “I now realize how important it is to have a kicker.”

It is safe to say that, if he didn’t already know that, Mike Tomlin learned that lesson last season as he stood with an injured Ben Roethlisberger watching Michael Vick and Josh Scobee struggled in the Steelers Heinz Field loss to the Ravens.

Hopefully Randy Bullock’s tenure as Steelers emergency kicker won’t force him to relive those memories.

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Steelers Sign Kicker Randy Bullock after Chris Boswell Injury, Cut Al-Hajj Shabazz

Just 24 hours before their show down with the New York Giants at Heinz Field saw Pittsburgh make a worrisome, as the Steelers sign kicker Randy Bullock after hastily adding Chris Boswell to their injury list, citing an abdomen injury.

The Houston Texans drafted Randy Bullock in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft and Bullock held a roster spot with the team despite not kicking. Bullock returned to kick for the Teaxans during the 2013 and 2014 campaigns, when he made 80.3% of his field goal attempts. During 2013, Bullock was perfect from inside 40 yards, but struggled a bit from that range in 2014.

  • During 2015 Bullock, split his time between the Texans and the New York Jets, and again kicked consistently inside of 40 yards.

Bullock did however miss 3 extra points, including two in Houston, which undoubtedly contributed to the Texans decision to part ways with him. Bullock played in the season opener for the New York Giants, where he did not attempt a field goal, but went 2 for 3 on extra points.

Does Steelers Sign Kicker Randy Bullock = “Here go again” for Steelers Nation?

Twitter is wonderful for communicating bite sized bits of information. In 2016 Twitter has almost evolved into Steelers Nation equivalent of the raven for Westeros. And as they say in Westeros, “Dark wings, dark words….”

And after reading a Tweet like that, Steelers Nation can be forgiven for issuing a collective “Here we go again” sigh….

Jeff Reed took over from Todd Peterson in mid-2002 and no other kicker’s foot touched the ball until the Steelers dismissed Jeff Reed following the following the 2010 spanking at the hands of the Patriots. The Steelers signed Shaun Suisham, and Shaun Suisham held a monopoly on kicking duties until the NFL Hall of Fame Game.

While an “abdomen injury” is cause for concern (did Boswell have an appendectomy? We don’t know), the Steelers haven’t put Boswell on IR. Which is good. But the Steelers limited history with emergency place kickers is less encouraging.

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Has Chris Boswell’s Honeymoon with Steelers Nation Ended?

As hard as it is to believe, when Steelers kicker Chris Boswell lined up to attempt a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter of the Steelers loss to the Patriots at Heinz Field, it never actually occurred to me that he might miss.

In-fact, as I watched Chris Boswell’s attempt sail through the air, the football appeared to be heading where it always had so many times before since he became a Steeler last October: right down the middle. When it stayed out to the left (my left as  I watched it on TV, Boswell’s right as he watched it at Heinz Field), I couldn’t believe it and thought I was seeing things when the officials singled that it was no good.

  • Jim Nantz even seemed to pause before annoucing the miss, as if he wasn’t sure he could believe his eyes.
chris boswell, heinz field goals, steelers vs. patriots, chris boswell's honeymoon

Has Chris Boswell’s honeymoon with Steelers Nation ended? Photo Credit: Don Wright, Associated Press

This is what happens when a kicker comes out of no where, as it seemed Chris Boswell did one year earlier when he won an in-season tryout and replaced the struggling Josh Scobee, and goes on to make 33 of his first 37 field goal attempts (and one of those misses is a block).

Had that miss happened under normal circumstances, it may not have hurt so much, but since it came just two plays after it appeared Pittsburgh had tied the game at 14 on a touchdown pass from Landry Jones to Darrius Heyward-Bey, it stung just a little more. (Especially on a day when you knew a Ben Roethlisberger late game rescue was out of the question.)

Of course, at the time, I didn’t feel as if Chris Boswell’s honeymoon with Steelers Nation had ended. However, in the fourth quarter, when the young kicker missed a 54-yard field goal after head coach Mike Tomlin (some would  say) inexplicably sent him out there to attempt it with his team trailing by 11 points and only needing three yards to keep the drive going, my brother texted: “Boswell is having a bad game!”

  • After seeing similar sentiments all throughout social media, I began to think the good feelings were over for Boswell.

Is that fair? Probably not. After all, while a 54-yard attempt is far from a sure thing – especially at Heinz Field–a 42-yarder is no gimme, either; coming into Sunday’s game, all three of Boswell’s career misses that weren’t blocks were from between 40 and 49 yards away, so maybe you don’t have to worry about him missing many actual gimmes (kicks from inside 40 yards).

Yes, while the honeymoon part of Boswell’s career may have ended on Sunday, I  don’t think the insanely accurate part of it has. If you use your mind’s eye to go back and re-visit the vast majority of Boswell’s kicks since signing with the Steelers, it’s hard to picture many of them not being dead-center perfect.

What that tells me is whatever it is that Chris Boswell is doing–his approach, his target, his follow-through–is on the money; as long as it stays that way, his accuracy will continue to be closer to the 89 percent it was coming into Sunday’s game, than the 60 percent that it was during it.

Earlier in the year, as I watched yet another one of his kicks evenly split the uprights, I turned to someone and said, “Boswell’s going to be the best kicker in the NFL before long.”

The fact that Chris Boswell is doing what he’s doing just over a year after not being able to find an NFL job, exemplifies just how universally good kickers have become at their craft. Therefore, he may never reach the top of the mountain, but he’ll certainly be in the mix of top NFL kickers for the next several years.

  • So, if you fear Boswell is Heinz Field’s latest victim and that he’ll suddenly become a head-case on par with Kris Brown and Jeff Reed, I don’t think you have to worry about that.

Sometimes, kickers miss field goals. And while Chris Boswell had a bad day on Sunday (relatively speaking–in-addition to his two misses, he also connected from 32, 44 and 46 yards away), he seems to be on his way to having a very good career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Steelers Cut Chris Boswell, Hand Kicking Job to Shaun Suisham

When Steelers place kicker Shaun Suisham became a US citizen a few months ago, he vowed a fight to defend his roster spot. Based on an announcement the Steelers made this morning, Suisham has won the battle without so much as making a single kick.

The most shocking move out of Pittsburgh this off seasons sees the Steelers cut Chris Boswell and anoint Siusham as their place kicker for the 2016 season. While he did not speak to the press, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced the decision in a prepared statement:

First, let’s tip our cap to Chris Boswell. He’s a rookie who stepped into a pressure cooker. He didn’t blink. Obviously, Chris delivered for us as we expected. We acknowledge that. He was continually above the line and he made the critical kicks that were necessary to win games a number of times. We thank him for his efforts, but this decision was about Shaun Suisham’s ability to deliver in similar form and fashion. Shaun simply has a larger body of work on tape and obviously we’re excited to move forward with him as our place kicker.

A torn ACL in the Hall of Fame Game sidelined Shuishm for the year, forcing the Steelers to turn to Garrett Hartley who himself was lost to injury, followed by Josh Scobee whose ineffectiveness led the Steelers to look to Chris Boswell. Rookie Chris Boswell rose to the occasion, kicking game winners in the Steelers victories against the Oakland Raiders and in the playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Chris Boswell was not available for comment, but through his agent he expressed gratitude toward the Steelers organization and Mike Tomlin for giving him a chance to prove himself in the NFL.

Cutting Chris Boswell a Ripple Effect of Heath Miller’s Retirement?

When the Steelers 2016 off season began, many speculated that Shaun Suisham would be a salary cap casualty, given that Boswell had done so well over the course of the season. Shaun Suisham signed a 4 contract in 2014 and carries a salary cap value of $3,503,000 whereas Chis Boswell would have only counted $525,000.

Yet the Steelers were on the record indicating that they planned for Suisham and Boswell to duel it out the kicking job at St. Vincents. In February When pressed by reporters as to whether NFL salary cap rules regarding waving injured players had tied the Steelers hands when it came to Suisham, Kevin Colbert indicated that while such moves involve an extra complication, they can be done. But Colbert concluded “we should have a great, competitive situation at kicker this summer.”

However, Heath Miller’s sudden retirement has created approximately 4 million dollars in additional salary cap room for the Steelers – room that allows them to comfortably keep Suisham on the roster, and the Steelers cutting Chris Boswell makes it seem like that was their desire all along.

Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager did not formally address the press, but reporters caught up with him as he was making his way into the office from his car. Reporters pressed Colbert as to why the Steelers cutting Chris Boswell at this point in the off season..

He declined several times to offer a comment, until Colbert finally cocked his head back and responded with a sly grin, “What better day to announce a move like this than April 1st?”

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The REAL Value of the Steelers 6th Round Compensatory Pick in the 2016 NFL Draft

The NFL awarded the Steelers a 6th round compensatory pick for losing Brice McCain in free agency last year. A jaded fan might react: “Woopie an extra pick at the bottom of the 6th round.”

  • Such attitudes would be little more than ignorant bliss.

Steelers.com reminded Steelers Nation that Hines Ward, Mike Vrabel, Amos Zereoue, Willie Colon and William Gay were compensatory picks. They could have added Daniel McCullers, and Kelvin Beachum were compensatory selections (so was Dri Archer, but most people on the South Side would probably rather forget that.)

  • A 6th round pick might sound ho, hum, but Antonio Brown was a 6th round pick.

Vince Williams, Willie Williams, Leroy Thompson, Greg Lloyd and Dwayne Woodruff were all 6th round picks. Those men serve as powerful reminders that good players are on the board in every round, and that no draft picks should be considered “throw aways.”

But that’s not the real value of the Steelers 6th round compensatory pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Real Value of the Steelers 6th Round Compensatory Pick

The fact that the Steelers got a compensatory pick is good, because before that they were looking at going into the 2016 NFL Draft with only 6 picks, having traded away their 5th pick to get Brandon Boykin and their 6th round pick to get Josh Scobee.

  • By definition, 7 picks is better than 6 picks in any draft.

But the real value that the Steelers 6th round compensatory selection gives Pittsburgh is something else: Flexibility. Ben Roethlisberger is 34 years old. Under Todd Haley Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his life, and his game is not showing any drop off.

Moreover, Ben Roethlisberger has weapons that Terry Bradshaw never dreamed of. And that is no disrespect to Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Franco Harris or Bennie Cunningham.

  • But if Ben’s game isn’t showing any signs of wear and tear, perhaps his body is.

After playing nearly every snap in 2013 and nearly every snap in 2014, Ben Roethlisberger had to be relieved by Michael Vick or Landry Jones on four separate occasions in 2015. This could just be the law of averages at work, or it could be the collective toll of all of the punishment Roethlisberger has taken beginning to make its presence felt.

Either way, the lesson is clear:

  • Ben Roethlisberger is closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it.

Steelers Nation should expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to field a Super Bowl caliber offense in 2016, as for the Steelers defense? Well, that remains a work in progress. As Tony Defeo indicates, Keith Butler deserves praise for his first season.

  • The Steelers defense performed far better than anyone had a right to expect.

Even those who thought that things could be better (like this site), lacked the courage to say that the Steelers defense would be better. But if the Steelers defense was better than expected, it still wasn’t Super Bowl caliber. Anyone who saw the Denver Broncos smother the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers should immediately understand.

  • Kevin Colbert must strengthen the Steelers defense in the 2016 NFL Draft, and he needs players who can deliver fast.

And that’s where the Steelers 6th round compensatory pick comes in. For the first time since the NFL adopted its compensatory draft pick system in 1993, compensatory picks can be traded. Having a 6th round picks gives Kevin Colbert the freedom to consider some wheeling and dealing during the draft.

Sure… the last time two times the Steelers traded up they picked Shamarko Thomas and Alameda Ta’amu. Neither man worked out.

  • But neither Shamarko nor Ta’Mau is indicative of Kevin Colbert’s record in trading up.

Colbert has traded up twice in the first round. The first time he moved up in 2003 and picked Troy Polamalu. The second time it was to pick Santonio Holmes. One is a future Hall of Famer, the other was the Super Bowl XLIII MVP.

Steel Curtain Rising will leave it to the draft nicks to decide if the Steelers “should” or “should not” trade up in the 2016 NFL Draft. But the Steelers 6th compensatory pick makes trading up a much more viable prospect.

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Los Steelers derrotaron a los Bengals en histórico juego de postemporada

Frecuentemente luego de un cotejo deportivo, sin importar de qué disciplina se trate, uno de los puntos de partida para cualquier análisis es determinar quién mereció ganar o, en otras palabras, si aquel que perdió mereció perder.
pregame

Este suele ser un enfoque muchas veces tramposo porque habrá quienes anteponen el juego virtuoso al resultado, aunque sostener ese estilo implique el riesgo de perder.

Luego esta discusión se hace interminable cuando nos ponemos a evaluar si el virtuosismo se contrapone a la efectividad.

  • Porque en definitiva, gana el que junta más porotos en su haber. Y aparte, siempre nos gusta ganar…

Pero entremos en este juego y preguntémonos: merecieron los Steelers ganar? O al revés, fue justo que los Cincinnati Bengals pierdan el partido luego de semejante remontada en el último cuarto? Los Pittsburgh Steelers ganaron porque los Bengals les regalaron en bandeja el partido y sólo eso?

  • Empecemos por ver cómo llegaron los Steelers a la postemporada.

Como sucede con todos los equipos llegando a la semana 17 se agranda la columna de los “si hubiese sucedido que…” (me refiero a: “si hubiese Josh Scobee acertado esos goles de campo…” y cosas por el estilo)

  • Para los fanáticos de los Steelers ese balance se ha hecho bastante habitual, lamentablemente.

Pero volviendo al tema, los Steelers clasificaron de manera agónica en la última semana de la temporada gracias a la derrota de los NY Jets.

Si hubiésemos ganado el partido contra los Baltimore Ravens (cualquiera de los dos, o los dos), si Big Ben no se hubiese lesionado y perdido los juegos que se perdió, si Bell se hubiese mantenido en una pieza, etc., la clasificación hubiese sido más holgada.

  • En cambio Cincinnati ganó la división el AFC North. Sin discusión.

Por otra parte Pittsburgh batalló todo el año con la defensiva y sus inconsistencias . Una defensiva con varios talentos pero joven, inmadura y volátil. Con su talón de Aquiles en el juego aéreo y en el tackle. Que trata aún hoy de adaptarse a un nuevo Coordinador y a un nuevo esquema de juego.

También arribó al mes de enero con su ataque terrestre diezmado: Le’Veon Bell está fuera de la temporada desde el primer encuentro contra los Bengals y su reemplazo, el sólido y efectivo DeAngelo Williams, lesionado hace 7 días y también fuera de este partido.

Así las cosas, este hincha acerero llegaba al minuto 0, cargado de interrogantes y no sin cierta preparación mental para la derrota.

Pero a poco de comenzado el juego se despejó la primera duda: podrían los Steelers imponer el juego terrestre sin sus figuras?

Pues sí pudieron. Los jóvenes Fitzgerald Toussaint y Jordan Todman compartiendo snaps detrás de Ben Roethlisberger, cumplieron con creces su trabajo. Tanto fue así que no se extrañaron ni Williams ni Bell.

La dupla de corredores totalizaron 123 yds a lo que hay que agregar 4 recepciones para más de 40 yds de Toussaint. Mantuvieron el juego vivo y fueron capaces de mover las cadenas.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, Steelers, Bengals, AFC, Wild Card

Fitzgerald Toussaint corriendo contra los Bengals

El siguiente interrogante era qué tipo de defensiva entraría al partido? Para ser más gráfico: la de los 2 primeros cuatros contra Denver o la de los dos cuartos finales? Es que esta defensiva es el Dr. Jekyll y es Mr. Hyde.

La defensiva mantuvo el juego bajo control durante 3 cuartos del partido.
El jugador más destacado fue, a mi juicio, el LB Ryan Shazier.

Repasemos sus números: registró 13 tackles (2 de ellos produjeron pérdida de yardas), desvió 2 pases, provocó 2 fumbles (el segundo de ellos fue el que le dió vida a unos Steelers entregados al milagro). Participó de todas las jugadas del partido.

Ryan Shazier, Steelers, Bengals, AFC Wild Card

Ryan Shazier

Fue simplemente el mejor juego de su corta carrera.

Qué había por el lado de Ben Roethlisberger? Y sus últimos 3 partidos con múltiples intercepciones?

Otra de las claves que el Dr. de Acero había puntualizado antes del partido desde twitter, era que Big Ben debía conservar la prudencia.
El resultado final fue por fortuna, un Ben “INT free” aunque digo por fortuna porque lanzó un par de pases de intercepción que no fueron atrapados por la defensiva.

No obstante, cuando Ben estaba fuera del partido, Landry Jones sí lanzó una INT. Y fue en el peor momento: Abajo en el marcador, finalizando el 4to cuarto y en propio campo.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, Bengals, AFC Wild Card

Ben Roethlisberger

Quedó demostrado, por si todavía hacía falta, que este equipo es Ben dependiente. Pero es lógico que así sea. Como lo era Miami de Dan Marino, San Francisco de Joe Montana o Denver de John Elway. Por eso es mariscal de franquicia.

La dependencia de un equipo de su QB es un efecto colateral de tener un QB de franquicia.

Luego del desafío lanzado en público por el líder del equipo a Martavis Bryant para que jugara con mayor compromiso, este recogió el guante, respiró hondo, acarreó 44 yardas, atrapó 5 pases, 1 de ellos para la atrapada de TD más increíble que se ha visto en mucho, mucho tiempo (por no decir jamás).

Martavis Bryant, Steelers, Bengals, AFC Wild Card

Martavis Bryant

No se puede dejar de lado al líder anotador de esa noche, con 12 de los 18 puntos de su equipo, al asombroso Chris Boswell. Este chico vale su peso en oro. La actitud de veterano con que se paró frente a la formación para patear el gol de campo más importante de su carrera (y de nuestra vida, en ese momento, al menos) fue sorprendente.

Chris Boswell, Steelers, Bengals, AFC Wild Card

Chris Boswell

Resumo.
– Juego terrestre.
– Una defensiva que controló el juego en 3 de los 4 cuartos y mantuvo al contrario en 0 durante todo ese tiempo, que provocó 2 TO más que su rival y que contó con el mejor jugador de la cancha.
– Un QB de élite.
– Un receptor capaz de atrapar un pase de TD mediante semejante acrobacia que implica un nivel de concentración superlativo y
– Un pateador perfecto esa noche y casi perfecto durante toda la temporada

Señores: Con eso, un equipo merece ganar cualquier partido. No hay dudas.

Pero claro, esto es un deporte, un juego. Y en los juegos pasan cosas.
Una de esas cosas es, por ejemplo, que lesionen a tu mariscal.

Esa fue la jugada clave del partido. En manos del jugador más decisivo del partido: Vontaze Burfict.

Esta especie de monstruo malo, convertido en el enemigo público número 1, fue quien tuvo en sus manos el destino del partido.

  • Tres jugadas así lo muestran.

Captura de QB que conllevó lesión y retiró del partido. Y no sólo eso: cambió además el momentum del partido. A esa jugada siguieron 13 minutos de pleno dominio de ofensiva local sobre la, hasta ahí, solvente defensa steeler. Los Steelers pasaron de ganar por 15 a perder por 1 durante esos 13 minutos. Así de simple.

  • Le atrapó una INT a Landry Jones que podría haber liquidado el partido a favor de su equipo
  • Y golpe salvaje al casco de Antonio Brown que desencadenó la batahola final, (las 30 yds de penalidad, Pacman Jones y todo lo que sabemos) y que llevó a Boswell a salir al campo a hacer su trabajo 14 segundos antes del final.
  • Los Steelers estuvieron allí, hicieron su juego como equipo de postemporada. Con nivel de postemporada.

Cuando todo eso no alcanzó para ganar el partido, sacó mentalidad de equipo de Postemporada, se mantuvo calmo, con la cabeza fría (como dijo Arthur Moats al ingresar a los vestuarios: “gotta be smart, gotta be smart”), hizo lo que debía hacer y no hizo lo que no debía hacer.

Pray

Por eso (y con eso) también se ganan los partidos.
Quedó demostrado.

El Dr. de Acero.

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Chris Boswell’s NCAA Kicking Stats Reveal Versatile Athlete

2015 has not been kind to kickers. The tendency is true league wide, and nowhere is it more true than in Pittsburgh. Shaun Suisham tearing an ACL during the Hall of Fame game was bad. Perhaps Jeff Reed getting ejected during the same game was an even worse omen.

  • In came Garrett Hartwell. Out went Garret Hartell.
  • The Steelers traded for Josh Scobee
  • Josh Scobee missed 5 of 17 kicks
  • Steelers cut Josh Scobee (who, if his agent is to be believed, is nursing a quad injury)

The Steelers have signed Chris Boswell who played his college ball at Rice University. One of the interesting things about Chris Boswell is that he knows how to nail an on sides kick:

That’s some fancy footwork.

Will it fool hardened NFL special teamers? Probably not, but it’s good to know he possesses that caliber of athletic talent. And lest ye forget, while Shaun Suisham’s absence is painfully felt in Pittsburgh this year, Suisham was 0-3 in kicking recoverable on-sides kicks in both 2013 and 2014.

  • But if things go well, the Steelers won’t need Boswell to attempt too many on-sides kicks.

Boswell’s job will be to put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs and split the uprights at all other times. Looking at Chris Boswell’s NCAA kicking stats from his time at Rice University, Boswell did pretty well.

steelers, Chris Boswell, NCAA, kicking stats, punter,

Chris Boswell’s NCAA Kicking Stats

  • And you’ll notice, place kicking isn’t all that Boswell does.

Chris Boswell also punts. In fact, he got his first tryout for the Houston Texans as a punter. In the 2014 preseason he punted 14 times for and totaled 619 yards for an average of 44.2 yards. Those aren’t Jordan Berry numbers (on a good day) but they’re not bad.

Boswell also kicked a field goal for the Texans in preseason but, more ominously, he also missed two extra points. As noted when the Steelers signed Boswell, he made 4 of 4 field goal attempts for the Giants in the 2015 preseason.

  • Like one of his predecessors, Jeff Reed, Boswell won the job by kicking at Heinz Field.

As a Texas native and an alum of Rice University, Boswell doesn’t have experience kicking in the cold and windy Northeast, experience that Mike Tomlin cited when the Steelers signed Sushiam in 2010. But when asked about his try out by Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider, Boswell revealed:

Yes. It was good. It was an experience. It was pouring rain and windy, and all the elements you want. I hear it gets pretty bad up here so it was kind of a good test and good competition as well.

At the very least, Boswell has necessary attitude for kicking successfully at Heinz Field. Will that attiude translate in to success in pressure situations? Time will tell. For now all we can say is “Welcome to Steelers Nation Chris Boswell.”

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Los Pittsburgh Steelers perdieron en casa frente a los Ravens por 23 a 20

En la semana 4 de temporada 2015, los Pittsburgh Steelers fueron incapaces de cerrar un partido que, al medio tiempo parecía definido, no tanto en el marcador sino por lo que podía verse en el campo de juego. 

En un duelo de defensivas en las que ambas alternaron protagonismo, el juego se definió en tiempo extra por apenas un gol de campo, abonando una vez más la rivalidad clásica en la División Norte de la Conferencia Americana.

La maldición del pateador que vino de Louisiana

Recuerdan esto?

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A finales de Agosto, durante la pretemporada y luego de haber perdido por lesión al kicker titular Shaun Suisham y a su reemplazante Garrett Hartley, también lesionado, la franquicia de la familia Rooney contrató a pateador Josh Scobee quien vistiera el jersey de Jacksonville Jaguars desde 2009 a 2014.

  • Pues bien. Este no fue ni el año ni el lugar para el bueno de Josh…

Aquí va la historia.

El 4to cuarto de mal fama…

Al comenzar el cuarto final, Baltimore desarrollaba un ataque que finalizaría en gol de campo para poner las cosas 17 a 20 para los locales, luego de que estos hubieran de avanzado con su ofensiva tan solo 14 yardas durante todo el cuarto anterior.

  • Así de flacos estaban los morrales acereros.

Y los Ravens se acercaban en el marcador. Peligrosamente. Amenazando con arrebatarles el partido que Pittsburgh parecía, hasta mitad del 3er cuarto, que tenía controlado.

  • A su turno la ofensiva local falló en progresar el ovoide teniendo que despejar, una vez más.

La respuesta de los Ravens parecía imparable, luego de un acarreo de 22 yardas de Justin Forsett. Pero en 4to y 1 con menos de 10 minutos por jugar, Joe Flacco se la juega quedando a centímetros del 1er y 10. Turn over of downs.

Luego de esta estruendosa victoria de la defensiva que vestía de negro y oro, sus compañeros de la ofensiva avanzaron el balón hasta la yarda 32 de campo rival para intentar un Gol de campo de 49 yardas que obligara a los Ravens a anotar TD si es que querían alzarse con el juego, con menos de 2:30 por jugar.

  • El convocado al campo fue el K Josh Scobee, quien fallara 2 GdeC en la jornada inaugural versus los Patriotas de Nueva Inglaterra.

El intento de gol de campo se quedaría en eso. En un intento. La patada se fue desviada por la izquierda (apenas desviada, pero el apenas no cuenta porque los tres puntos no contaron…)

Cuando fue su turno, la ofensiva de los Ravens fue devorada por la defensiva acerera: dos cargas sobre el mariscal resultaron en sendos pases incompletos, Antwon Blake desvió el tercero y así quedó Flacco enfrentando un 4to down y 10, en su propia yarda 39. Pero se la jugó. Era casi la pausa de los 2 minutos, perdían por 3 puntos. No había opción.

Pittsburgh comenzó su serie en la yarda 29 de Baltimore. Inmejorable.
Tres jugadas después estarían en la 24, en 4to down, con 1:06 por jugar, para un gol de campo de 41 yardas…

Otra vez la patada de Scobee se fue por la izquierda.

Impensado. Impensable

Baltimore, con poco más de 1 minuto, sin tiempos fuera por pedir y tenía que llegar a la 34 rival para poder así intentar su gol de campo que lleve el juego a tiempo extra. 3er y 10 con 29 segundos en el reloj.
Pase al WR Nick Aiken mal defendido por Blake y ya estaban en la 32 de Pittsburgh, aunque más tarde Forsett acarrearía hasta la 24.

  • Gol de campo de 41 yardas de Justin Tucker para poner el juego empatado y a Tiempo extra.
  • Lo demás es conocido, a estas alturas.

La segunda serie de los Steelers en OT, en la realidad ya sin pateador, termina en 4to y 1 y un pase incompleto, alto pero atrapable para Antonio Brown.

La ofensiva visitante deja el ovoide en la 35 de Pittsburgh para un gol de campo de 52 yardas que selló el partido para los Ravens.

Una Steelers Ofensiva Insolvente

Los Steelers entraron al juego con un promedio de 410 yardas totales por juego en esta temporada (5ta ranqueada en la NFL) y anotando 5 TD terrestres empatando el 1er puesto en la liga, pero con Michael Vick al comando en lugar de Ben Roethlisberger.
Vick, en toda su carrera tenía un 56% de pases completados, 22.140 yardas, 131 TD y 87 INT. Tenía la experiencia necesaria para iniciar un clásico como este, jugando en casa.

Pero faltaba tiempo de juego con sus nuevos compañeros de equipo. Así la ofensiva aérea fue impredecible y pobre con tan solo 124 yardas avanzadas.

Los números de los receptores fueron inverosímiles. Basta ver la disminución del nivel que mostró Antonio Brown: 5 rec para 42 yardas.

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Pero lo que no muestran las estadísticas es que dejó caer dos pases que hubiesen sido clave en el partido. Ambos tocaron sus manos, por lo tanto eran atrapables: Un pase lo soltó dentro de la end zone y el otro en OT, en 4to y 1 que entregó el ovoide al rival para que anote el FG definitivo.

Por otro lado Markus Wheaton anotó solo una atrapada para 18 yardas y Heath Miller, sólo 1.
Por tierra la cosa fue algo mejor, aunque la línea ofensiva no abría los huecos de manera consistente y se repartían con sus rivales la supremacía en la línea de golpeo.

  • El balance final, a mi juicio, favoreció a los Ravens.
  • LeVeon Bell acarreó para 124 yds, 5.9 yds por acarreo. Nada mal.
  • Pero cuando hizo falta no se lo aprovechó. Ni a DeAngelo Williams.

Para mi gusto hubo una subutilización de un jugador de potencia con DeAngelo Williams quien provee, esta temporada, de 4.8 yds por acarreo.

En OT, en 2 series consecutivas, en 4to y corto, para tal vez quedarse con el partido, el OC Todd Haley prefirió ir con Vick con un roll hacia afuera y acarreando (en la primera ocasión) y por aire con AB, en la segunda, quien no había tenido una noche como las de siempre.

  • Resultado: 0 de 2 en conversión de 4to down.

Fue difícil para esta ofensiva avanzar el ovoide, ya que se consiguieron tan solo el 15% de los terceros intentos. Muy por debajo de lo conseguido en los 3 juegos anteriores:

46% vs Patriots
60% vs 49ers
50% vs Rams

Se están aplicando los remaches de una nueva Cortina de Acero?

Es una pregunta algo pretenciosa. Tal vez desmesurada. Más una expresión de deseos que una realidad, pero el desarrollo que ha mostrado esta unidad es muy destacable y meritoria.

Aquello que nos ocupó y preocupó a todos luego de la semana 1, la defensiva secundaria y la defensa contra el pase ha mejorado notablemente.

Mientras que en la semana 1 se permitieron 281 yds, en la 4 tan solo 165. (Claro que estoy advertido de que aquel día el QB rival era Tom Brady)
Además se obtuvieron 2 turn overs.

Queda mucho por mejorar en la defensa del ataque terrestre puesto que este jueves se ha batido récord en la temporada en yardas permitidas por tierra: 191. La vuelta de Ryan Shazier al campo, tal vez modifique en positivo este ítem de la estadística.

La línea defensiva está mostrando actuaciones sobresalientes: Cam Heyward (7 tkl y 1 captura), Stephon Tuitt (10 tkl y 1 captura)
El tackleador más prolífico este jueves ha sido el veterano Lawrence Timmons con 11 tackles, 1 asistencia y una captura de QB.

De las 7 capturas que ha sufrido Joe Flacco en la temporada, 5 han sido por parte de los Steelers (James Harrison, Heyward, Timmons, Sean Spence y Tuitt) y eso ha sido gracias a las cargas externas que se han lanzado sobre Flacco, que fue capturado, apurado y golpeado en reiteradas ocasiones.

Los Ravens han convertido tan solo el 35% de los 3er downs y en 3 ocasiones de 4 se les ha negado en 1er down desde el 4to intento.

El Factor Scobee

scobee
El Kicker de los Steelers, ha sido desafectado del equipo. En su reemplazo ingresa Chris Boswell, quien a decir verdad no ha jugado en la NFL en temporada regular.

El escueto comunicado de los Steelers presenta al pateador en sociedad: “Boswell estuvo con los New York Giants en el equipo de pretemporada 2015 y en el training camp. Pasó una semana de la temporada 2014 en el equipo de práctica de los Houston Texans. Boswell fue contratado originalmente por los Texans como agente libre novato no seleccionado el 16 de mayo de 2014.”

Verdaderamente el comunicado es poco alentador. Habrá que esperar y confiar.
Sobre todo eso…

Confiar.

El Dr. de Acero

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