Our last edition of Steelers Film Room looked at how good the Pittsburgh Steelers were at converting two point conversions when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger targeted his receivers.
Pittsburgh's head coach, Mike Tomlin, pushed for the league to change the rule on extra points by pushing back the spot which teams would kick from after touchdowns to make teams snap the ball from the fifteen yard line instead of the two. This gave a bigger incentive for teams to go for two point conversions since an extra point was now equivalent to a 32 yard field goal.
The Steelers took that rule change and ran with the opportunity to go for two point conversions, having the most attempts in the league with 11, the most conversions with eight, and the highest percentage of success of any team that attempted more than one two point conversion.
After covering what Pittsburgh could do with their receivers in our last edition, we felt it was important to show that Roethlisberger has more than just one position to target in these situations.
The recently retired Heath Miller set up this pass rusher perfectly on this play. Pittsburgh's entire offensive line jumps off the snap with a left step reach to draw the 49ers defensive alignment away from Miller, the true target of this scheme.
Miller sets up to engage his assigned pass rusher on the play and allows for his pass rush move to go by only to be wide open at the goal line for Roethlisberger to complete a routine pass. Plays like this frustrate defenses and slow down pass rushers when they cannot anticipate who could be a target on a given play. Though Miller is gone, this is a fundamental play call that any professional tight end could pull off with enough practice.
When Pittsburgh lines up, opponents identify their big name targets like Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and others, but lesser known players like second year tight end Jesse James might not get the attention that a star might draw. James' huge frame makes defensive backs respect his potential threat of going up for a fade route in the red zone, which means he has more opportunities to be clear on underneath routes.
Combine both the factor of route combinations that can confuse defenses and draw them to stars with the respect that a big player like James commands from defensive backs and you have a whole lot of calculations forced upon a defense that only has but a few seconds to decide how they want to stop you from gaining two yards.
Clear out plays
Fitzgerald Toussaint is one of the last players on the field that any team might anticipate to receive the ball. While honoring all the other options available to the Steelers, opponents have to spread their defenses to cover too many responsibilities.
That's part of the strategy from offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. When you're too busy worrying about what five different weapons can do instead of just one or two, you're more likely to make a mistake.
Here Brown clears out the entire Browns' defense with a drag route across the field, literally attracting his cornerback, the safety and a linebacker to flow with him. This allowed Fitzgerald Toussaint, a fourth string running back, to attack an easy matchup with an outside linebacker on a circle pattern that was easy for Roethlisberger to see and convert the attempt.
Ben Roethlisberger's confidence in two point conversions is based in both his ability to make quick decisions against defenses and in his knowledge of how good his teammates are on the offensive side of the ball. Pittsburgh can hit you from anywhere on offense with all the weapons they have, and that does not even include their suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant.
The sharp route runners of their receiving corps, combined with their big targets at tight end with Ladarius Green and Jesse James, the factor that any position can fake out a pass rusher from being a blocker to a receiver and the fact that Pittsburgh's running backs pose nightmare matchups for most linebackers all make for the perfect storm to face any defense.
Look for Pittsburgh's two point conversion attempts and successes to be much higher this season than it was last year.