Of the teams that tried the two-point conversion more than once last year, the Steelers had the best success rate, converting 8 of 11 attempts (72.7 percent). That means they averaged almost 1.4 points per attempt, which is much better than their 0.9 average when going for the extra point last year (32-for-34), the first year that the NFL moved the extra-point try back from being spotted at the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line, creating a 33-yard kick instead of a 20-yard kick.
The result was that, league-wide, the percentage of extra points made dropped from better than 99 percent over the previous five years to 94.2 percent. The Steelers were at the league average for extra-point percentage, but they were league leaders in going for the two-point conversion.
“Our comfort with pursuing it is steeped in our preparation,” Tomlin said on ESPN’s Mike & Mike radio show this week. “It’s part of our practice plan. Having Ben at the quarterback position increased our level of comfort.”
Ben, of course, is Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ bruising quarterback who has said he would like to see the Steelers go for two points every time after scoring a touchdown. But while Roethlisberger didn’t run in any of the Steelers’ two-point successes, he was part of a plan that spread the ball around on their attempts. Antonio Brown was the only Steeler to have more than one two-point conversion as seven different Steelers scored two-point conversions.
That’s more than any other team even attempted.
After the Steelers’ 11 attempts, the Green Bay Packers were next with six two-point attempts, connecting on four of them (they were also second to the Steelers in success rate, tied with four other teams at 66.7 percent). Five other teams – the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks – attempted a two-point conversation five times, but none of them was successful on more than two of their tries.
It would seem the Steelers were prepared to go for two points regularly.
“Because we spend a lot of time working on it,” Tomlin said, “we feel comfortable on offense and defense in that situation.”
But now that NFL coaches have had an offseason to digest the percentages for extended extra-point tries and the success rate of two-point conversions, the question is whether others will employ the strategy as much as the Steelers.
Five teams last year – the New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals – never even attempted a two-point conversion. Four more – the Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos – only attempted one of them, and all but the Broncos were successful. The Detroit Lions were the only team with more than one attempt (they had three) that wasn’t successful on any of them.
The league as a whole was successful on 45 of 94 two-point conversation attempts, or 48 percent, meaning that is only a slightly better rate of return for points than connecting on 94 percent of the extra-point kicks. So if the rest of the NFL wants to follow the lead of the Steelers, they might want to be as prepared for success as the Steelers to really make it worth the gamble.