In a game with points at a premium, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost kicker Chris Boswell on a bizarre fake field goal against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
His absence loomed large on decisions by both teams throughout the second half and actually benefited the Steelers as they secured a 15-10 win to keep pace in a competitive AFC North.
How Boswell got hurt
With less than two minutes remaining in the first half of a 3-3 game, the Steelers faced fourth-and-9 at the Browns' 10-yard line, a standard situation to kick a field goal. They lined up for one. They just had no intention of following through.
Instead of attempting a 28-yard field goal, Boswell took a direct snap and ran to his right. He looked. He looked some more. And by the time he approached the sideline, he still hadn't found an open receiver. So he chucked the ball in desperation a fraction of a second before Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott walloped him.
Boswell got knocked out of the TV screen 😳 pic.twitter.com/hY1FrXh5rx
— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) October 31, 2021
Here's another angle of the hit.
the hit on boswell on that fake field goal pic.twitter.com/40jrRVpZ6Z
— Benstonium (@Benstonium) October 31, 2021
As a kicker, there's a decent chance that's the biggest blow Boswell's ever suffered on a football field. He got up from it clearly woozy.
Boswell ruled out with concussion
Moments later, he walked gingerly to the locker room with Steelers staffers at his side. The game went to halftime without another Steelers kicking situation, and Boswell didn't return to the field for the third quarter, which saw the Browns kick off. Meanwhile punter Pressley Harvin III was practicing kicks at halftime. The Steelers announced that Boswell was being evaluated for a concussion and later ruled him out for the game.
Boswell's absence influences every second-half scoring decision
His absence cost them on their first would-be kicking opportunity in the third quarter. After scoring a touchdown to cut Cleveland's lead to 10-9, Pittsburgh faced an obvious extra-point situation — if they had a kicker, that is. But since they didn't, they went for a two-point conversion, which almost paid off.
Ben Roethlisberger broke through the Cleveland defense on a sneak to secure the conversion and a would-be 11-10 lead. But the play got wiped out by a holding penalty, pushing the Steelers back 10 yards. Not even the distance to goal after the penalty prompted head coach Mike Tomlin to give Pressley — who's not an experienced kicker — a shot at the extra point. The Steelers went for a long two-point conversion, and Roethlisberger's pass fell incomplete to keep Cleveland leading, 10-9.
Would-be FG ends up as go-ahead Steelers TD
A possession later, Boswell's absence actually worked out in Pittsburgh's favor. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Pittsburgh faced another obvious kicking situation, this time with a field goal while trailing 10-9.
Instead they went for a touchdown. And they converted one of Week 8's most spectacular plays. Roethlisberger looked left to the back of the end zone to a well-covered Pat Freiermuth. But the Steelers tight end outfought safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. for a bobbling catch at the end line and managed to secure possession with both feet down before falling out of bounds.
— NFL (@NFL) October 31, 2021
They failed again on the two-point conversion, but came away from the drive with a 15-0 lead.
Browns' fourth-down conversion fails on next possession
Boswell's absence impacted another critical late decision, this time by the Browns. With Pittsburgh maintaining its 15-10 lead, the Browns faced fourth-and-12 from the Pittsburgh 26-yard line. Had Boswell remained in the game, Cleveland very well could have been within three points, which would have made this another obvious kicking situation, this time for the Browns.
But facing a five-point deficit, Cleveland had little choice but to go for it. The Browns did, and they failed when Baker Mayfield's pass to Jarvis Landry fell incomplete. The Steelers took over on downs and ran out the clock to secure the win and improve to 4-3. The loss dropped the Browns to 4-4, a half game behind the Steelers for last place in the division.