Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro defensive end Cameron Heyward attended the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last week, in part to watch his draft-eligible brother Connor Heyward take part in drills. The former Steelers first-round pick also appeared on The Pat McAfee Show, where he discussed everything from the team needing a new starting quarterback, to his “punch” of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (Nov/21), to running back Najee Harris’ lack of Christmas spirit.
Heyward also spent part of his 27-minute segment talking about the motivational tactics used by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who, as Heyward tells it, makes a habit of trash-talking his own players during the run-up to games.
“He does the best job of just getting under our skin,” offered Heyward.
While any Steeler is liable to be the target of Tomlin’s barbs, one player who gets as much attention as any is placekicker Chris Boswell, aka ‘Boz,’ a former Pro Bowler who is considered one of the best kickers in the league.
Mike Tomlin: ‘Tucker is 1A … You’re 1B’
“Boz gets it a lot. He’s gotta fight (Justin) Tucker from Baltimore. Mike T. is always talking about Tucker. He’s like ‘Tucker is 1A, Boz, you’re 1B,’” adds Heyward, relating one of Tomlin’s quips, before noting that Boswell doesn’t let the tweaks go unanswered.
“But Boz always backs it up,” says Heyward. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, but you got me, though.’”
With the exception of one season, Chris Boswell, 30, has been exceptionally good for Tomlin and the Steelers. In 2018, Boswell converted just 65% of his field goals, yet according to Pro Football Reference, he still has an 88.3 career field goal percentage, not to mention a 94.3% extra-point conversion rate.
Yet Boswell operates in the shadow of Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, 32, a four-time first-team All-Pro who has a 91.1% career field goal percentage and a 99% extra-point conversion rate, as per Pro Football Reference. In 2021, Tucker had his best season yet, converting 35 of 37 field goals (94.4%) and all 32 of his extra-point attempts. In September 2021 he set a new record for the longest field goal in NFL history, kicking a 66-yarder as time expired to beat the Detroit Lions, 19-17.
Even Boswell concedes that Tucker is the GOAT.
“He’s for sure the greatest kicker of all-time,” Boswell said of Tucker shortly after the Steelers beat the Ravens in the 2021-22 regular-season finale. “You know, I love playing them, and Tomlin loves, you know … ” implying that the Steelers head coach gives him a hard time about Tucker being the better placekicker.
AFC North: ‘The Best Kicking Division in Football’?
Making the situation potentially even more compelling going forward is that the Bengals now employ a brash 22-year-old placekicker, Evan McPherson, who Cincinnati selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Florida.
McPherson made 28 of 33 field goal attempts and 46 of 48 extra-point attempts as a rookie, while helping the Bengals advance to the Super Bowl.
That’s why Pat McAfee—a former NFL punter—envisions Tomlin taking the placekicker trash-talk to a new level in 2022, now that the AFC North is “the best kicking division in football,” as he put it.
“Wait till this year, Tomlin definitely this year will be like, ‘Tucker 1A, Money Mac Evan McPherson probably 1B …’” quipped McAfee, relishing the thought.
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