In the modern era of the NFL, the kicker position had become so specialized that routine tasks such as point after attempts had become virtually automatic. It hadn’t always been that way, of course. Before the advent of the modern placekicker, it would not be out of the ordinary for an extra point to be missed.
In 1955, for example, to pick a somewhat random example, the 12-team National Football League collectively attempted 382 extra points, and made 356 of them, with a total of 26 misses. Only two teams made every attempt, and the league collectively averaged a 93.2 percent success rate.
By now, it had become so commonplace that, within the past decade leading up to this seasons, only two times did the league’s collective success rate dip below a solid 99 percent, but never below 98 percent.
In 2014, NFL teams attempted 1230 extra points, making 1222 of them, with eight misses, which translated to a success rate of 99.4 percent. The year before, the success rate was even higher, with only five misses. The year prior to that, there were six misses. Then seven, etc.
The league had grown weary of the routine nature of this play, and looked to change things, and so they did, moving the line of scrimmage for a point after attempt from the two-yard line to the 15-yard line. And the results have been striking, perhaps greater than anticipated.
So far, through 11 games played for all teams, the league has attempted 830 extra points in 2015. Teams have missed 49 of them. The collective success rate for point after attempts currently stands at 94.1 percent for the year.
Only 10 teams have thus far gone unscathed with a full 22 teams missing at least one point after attempt thus far this year. The Pittsburgh Steelers have not been immune, especially without Shaun Suisham. They have used two different kickers in the regular season, and both have missed one apiece.
The Steelers on the year have made 17 of 19 extra point attempts, good for 89.5 percent. They are one of a full 11 teams with a success rate of under 90 percent, balancing out the 10 teams remaining without a blemish.
So far, however, Pittsburgh seems to be the only team to seriously adapt their strategy. Or at least do so successfully. The Steelers have 19 point after attempts, but they have balanced it out with nine two-point attempts, and have made an NFL record-tying six of them.
Collectively, they have had 28 point after opportunities, and have come away with 29 total points, so are thus in the green in that respect—a minus-two differential on extra point attempts made up by a plus-three differential in two-point attempts.
The Steelers are the only team to have more than five two-point conversion attempts this season, and the only team to have more than three successful two-point conversions. Only one team has three, and 10 teams have none. It will be interesting to see how the data collected this season shapes how coaches attack this aspect of the game in the future.