The Steelers, who are the Redskins’ Week 1 opponent, went for two points after touchdowns more often than any other NFL team last year. Ben Roethlisberger wants his team to be even more aggressive this year.
Will the Redskins have to follow suit, at least in their season opener?
Last year the Steelers went for two points after touchdowns 11 times, the most in the league. They were successful on eight of those attempts, a success rate of 72.7 percent.
Roethlisberger thinks that the Steelers should leave their kicker on the sideline after every touchdown.
“I think we should go for it every time,” he said earlier this week. “Why not?”
The simple numbers indicate that the two-point conversion is the better play if you’re as good at the two-pointer as the Steelers were last year. With the line of scrimmage for the kicked PAT now moved back to the 15-yard line, the one-point conversion rate dropped to 94.7 percent, the lowest the league has seen since 1979.
If a team scores 50 touchdowns and converts kicked PATs at the league average they will get 47 points from conversions. If that team is successful on two-pointers at even a 60 percent rate they will get 60 points from conversions. That’s like scoring two extra touchdowns over the course of the season. If those points are well placed they could equal an extra win, maybe two if they play in a lot of close games.
Of course, going for two is not Roethlisberger’s call. Head coach Mike Tomlin makes that decision. Tomlin already showed that he is willing to defy the orthodox thinking and be more aggressive by going for two 11 times last year. Even if Tomlin doesn’t go for two after every TD this year it would not be surprising to see him try for two more often than he did last year.
This brings up the question that Jay Gruden will have to answer. Can the Redskins afford to settle for seven points per touchdown in their opener if Pittsburg is getting eight points on three out of every four touchdowns?
The Redskins had a pretty good percentage on two-point tries themselves, hitting at a 66.7 percent rate. But it was just on a tiny sample size; they were successful on two out of three.
How did the Redskins fare in comparable situations? A two-point conversion try is essentially a fourth and goal play from the two. The Redskins had one such play last year and it failed. That’s an extremely small sample size.
Although it’s not the same situation, let’s look at how they did on third or fourth down with two yards to go. They had 21 such plays last year and they got at least two yards 12 times, a 57.1 percent success rate. It’s not a perfect comparison to two-point conversions, when you’re working in a very compressed area right there at the doorstep of the end zone, but if they can come close to that on two-point conversions it would make more sense to go for two than it would be to kick.
Another reason the Redskins may want to go for two more often is the fact that they have some very enticing red zone targets. Players like Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Josh Doctson, and Pierre Garçon can make the tough one-on-one plays needed to convert those two pointers.
Even though the numbers might recommend a more aggressive approach, it would be surprising if Gruden went for two more often than the score and “the book” dictate that he should. But he should have a good supply of two-point plays ready to go in Week 1 in case Tomlin and the Steelers throw out the book and do what Big Ben wants them to do.