I’ll believe it when I see it.
That was my gut reaction to Mike Tomlin’s assertion earlier this week that the two-point conversion will be in the Steelers plans more often this season as a result of the extra point kick moving back to the 15 yard line. And this will remain my prevailing belief on this subject until I see the black and gold operating differently when games are played for real this fall. I find it hard to believe that Tomlin – or any NFL coach for that matter – will change tactics to the point where two-point conversion attempts come into play significantly more often.
Now, if any team has the numbers on their side in terms of two-point conversion success, it’s the Steelers. Since 2001, the Steelers have converted two-point attempts at the highest rate of any team in football. But even sitting atop the league rankings with a 72.7 percent success rate doesn’t warrant giving up an all-but-sure seven points for a potential eight. As long as field and weather conditions are favorable, a 33-yard extra point is not going to tax snappers, holders and kickers much more than the old 20-yard kicks.
Part of the two-point positivity the Steelers have enjoyed over the years has been thanks to a variety of trick plays and misdirection that have allowed Big Ben and the boys to convert nearly three of every four tries. If Tomlin and his coaching cohorts are going to start lining up and going for two more often, the element of surprise – and the opportunities for creativity and innovation – will be limited.
We all enjoy seeing receivers and running backs get the occasional pass attempt, but those left-handed gems from Antonio Brown will become more predictable – and by extension less effective – every time No. 84 swings through the backfield and takes the ball on an end-around. Trick plays work, in part, because they’re executed well and employed at just the right moment. It would be better to keep from dipping into that well too often.
With the significant advancements of the offense last season, the last thing the Steelers need is for Todd Haley to lock himself in his office on the South Side and spend time coming up with two-point gadget plays that will look pretty on SportsCenter. Let’s keep the offense moving forward and trot out the two-point plays only when the scoreboard dictates late in games. I get that running Le’Veon Bell off tackle or throwing the fade to Martavis Bryant won’t work every time either, but there’s something to be said for flawless execution and a straightforward, smashmouth approach to getting the ball across the goal line.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’ll be calling our coach Two-Point Tomlin anytime soon. It’s easy for him to make declarations about the team’s intentions in May when there’s nothing to be gained by taking a side regarding the new rule. Tomlin is – and will remain – a coach who has the courage of his convictions.
The more likely scenario when it comes to the rule change is that the Steelers will go for two – and fail – in the first quarter of a game in September (either costing the team a win or making it more difficult to comfortably close one out), and Tomlin will avoid putting himself in that position the rest of the year.
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