It pretty much went unnoticed—and quite frankly it’s not a particularly important or significant fact—but last night, during the second quarter, the Pittsburgh Steelers made NFL history by setting a new single-season mark for successful two-point conversions in a season after Ben Roethlisberger found Will Johnson in the back of the end zone.
That throw was the seventh successful two-point attempt from the Steelers this season in 10 tries. With Roethlisberger at quarterback, the team has converted seven of nine attempts in a span of eight games.
And that latter factoid is the real history, which was put on hold while the franchise quarterback was sidelined for a span of four games, during which the Steelers only attempted one two-point attempt, unsuccessfully, which was intercepted.
I wrote about the Steelers tying the previous high mark last week when a short toss to Jesse James from Roethlisberger in the shallow middle of the field right at the goal line gave Pittsburgh its sixth point pairing of the year.
The previous record of six successful conversions was held jointly by the 1994 Dolphins and the 1997 Vikings, whose histories I analyzed in comparing and contrasting how they executed two-point plays versus how the Steelers under Mike Tomlin this year have attacked it.
In both cases for the Dolphins and Vikings, their two-point attempts were reserved almost universally exclusively as a reactive, come-from-behind tool, almost always in the third or fourth quarter, barring a substantial deficit that demanded going for two earlier in the game.
The 2015 Steelers are really something that we have never seen before, as Tomlin has turned the two-point attempt into an aggressive, proactive strategy in an attempt to put opposing offenses behind the eight ball or to balance out a pair of field goals.
The latter was the case last night after the Steelers scored to come back from a 10-6 deficit. After settling for field goals on their first two scoring drives, the two-point conversion brought the score to 14-10, equivalent to two touchdowns and a differential greater than a field goal.
This has typically been how Tomlin and Roethlisberger have attacked the two-point conversion this season, typically in the first half. Seven of their 10 attempts have come before halftime, and three times they have attempted one to gain a four-point lead.
The Steelers under Roethlisberger over the past few seasons had already shown themselves to be a highly efficient two-point team. Under Tomlin, in fact, the Steelers had been successful on 10 of 13 tries from 2007 to 2014. Add in this year’s totals, and under the current coaching regime, this offense has been successful on 17 of 23 two-point attempts, which produces a surplus of 11 points from the expected total.
Because the team had already established itself as a successful two-point conversion team, and Tomlin installed the Seven Shots drill as a regular feature in practices, I don’t believe we can wholly ascribe the changes in the extra point rule this season to his newfound aggressiveness, though it obviously plays a role. What we can probably say, however, is that he has been ahead of the curve.