Head coach Mike Tomlin spent much of training camp beating around the bush when it came to his “Seven Shots” drill that opened every 11-on-11 session for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it’s hard to deny the motivation at this point.
Whether directly or indirectly, Tomlin was preparing his team to be aggressive in going for two points after touchdowns this season after the competition committee pushed back the line of scrimmage for extra point attempts, by extension also harnessing the team’s goal line offense.
“Seven Shots”, of course, refers to the 11-on-11 drill in which the offense starts with the ball on the defense’s two-yard line. They run seven plays, and the offense and defense compete over which side ‘wins’ the drill, being the first to reach either four scores or four stops.
The offense as a whole proved highly successful in the drill, but especially so when Ben Roethlisberger was at quarterback. It is a drill that Tomlin implemented during the course of the regular season last year, and he has been running it consistently since. One might correlate it with an increase in success at the goal line.
The most vivid evidence lies in the simple fact that the Steelers have already run three two-point conversion attempts through the first two games of the season, converting all three of them, through the air, on completions to Markus Wheaton, Heath Miller, and Antonio Brown.
It’s also worth noting that the Steelers scored five of their six touchdowns yesterday with first and goal, with three of them coming inside the two-yard line. Three of them came on DeAngelo Williams carries, while two came on two- and seven-yard receptions to Miller and Brown, respectively.
All told, the Steelers converted touchdowns on all five of their trips into the red zone, and all five of their trips in goal-to-go situations. Add in the two successful two-point conversion attempts, and that is seven instances of tangible progress.
If Pittsburgh’s offense had one singular weakness last season, it was inconsistency beyond the 20-yard line. They had no trouble airing the ball out down the field, ranking as the second-most prolific offense in terms of yards generated, but their conversion rate fluctuated around 50 percent, though it finished on an upward trajectory during the second half of the season.
If the offense is indeed to carry the team this year, the Steelers must keep up this conversion success in the red zone throughout the season, ending drives in touchdowns and not settling for field goals. The added dimension of scoring eight points rather than seven can also help to throw off the game plan that their opponents have.
The fact that Josh Scobee has already missed two field goals, as well as an extra point, only adds more fuel to the aggressive fire in going for two points. So far, the Steelers are four for five on extra points, a points per play rate of .80, but they have gone three for three on two-point plays, averaging 2.0 points per play.