Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp on July 25th, and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham will miss two early extra points, causing the Steelers to reconsider point-after strategy.
Why it will happen: Suisham is one of the NFL's most accurate kickers, but he excels at the range that gives a lot of kickers fits -- 40 to 49 yards. The team knows his limitations, and rarely tries kicks over this distance, knowing his career long was a 53-yarder in 2014. But, since the start of the 2012 season, he is a perfect 30 of 30 from that range.
Where he struggles, though, is between 20 and 39 yards. He has missed eight of 95 kicks in the last three seasons; half of them have been from distances under 40 yards.
That matters, because the NFL is moving extra-point tries back from the two-yard line to the 15-yard line in an effort to up the excitement of a play that results in as close to a "gimme" as you will find in sports. A kick from the 15-yard line? It's a total distance of 32 yards -- pretty nearly right, smack in the middle of Suisham's danger zone.
Adding to that fact is that fully half of his games are played at Heinz Field, which is about as nice to kickers as Equatorial Guinea would be to a polar bear in a wool blanket. Even though the fans would be on his side, Mother Nature still swirls the winds and destroys the turf in Rooney Land. It adds up to uncertain conditions that can ruin a perfect snap and hold with a slippery surface or an unexpected crosswind in the blink of an eye.
Why it won't happen: The reality is, as I already said, that Suisham is one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL. Each miss has to be taken with a grain of salt. What stadium was it? What were the weather conditions? Was it a rushed kick due to time constraints? Was it left-to-right, right-to-left or straight-on? There is more to a missed kick than simply distance, and the best we can do to figure out why he missed those four kicks is speculate.
And, while playing at Heinz Field can be seen as a detriment, so, too, can it be viewed as an advantage. He spends half his season kicking under the worst conditions possible; that should only make him better in the ideal conditions of .the dome in St. Louis or the fair-weather confines of San Diego.
Finally, all extra-point kicks will still be made from the center of the hash marks. There is no consideration for how far the kick needs to be aimed right or left, aside from compensating for wind. It's one fewer variable than the average 32-yard kick.
Keys: There are a few factors that will drive this scenario. First is the absence of Le'Veon Bell for what is likely to be the first three games of the season. Taking away the team's top rusher could force the Steelers to either try more kicks early in the year, or rely on a stellar passing game. But the latter of the two will be dependent on Martavis Bryant continuing to become an all-around threat, and possibly on rookie Sammie Coates doing a better job of holding on to passes that come his way. Both figure to play a significant role in the team's plans inside the five-yard line. If they are struggling to score touchdowns from inside the five, they will be less likely to go for two, leaving the onus on Suisham to convert. If he misses a few times early, it really puts the team between a rock and a hard place.