Jaguars-Steelers: A Two-Point Conversion Case Study

J. AlexanderCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2008

Saturday's AFC Wild Card matchup between the Jaguars and Steelers was one of the more exciting playoff games I've ever seen.

Although the Jags jumped out to a 28-10 lead, Pittsburgh was able to work its way back into the game behind a solid second-half performance from Ben Roethlisberger.

But it was too little too late for the Steelers, as Jacksonville drove down the field in the final minutes for what would be a game-winning field goal.

Many Pittsburgh fans will want to blame the loss on Roethlisberger, who threw three interceptions and fumbled in the final minute to secure the game for the Jags. Yes, the turnovers definitely hurt—but then again the Steelers were still in it in the final minutes.

In truth, what really lost the game for Pittsburgh was two poor coaching decisions by Mike Tomlin.

Down 28-23 with four minutes left after a Heath Miller touchdown, Tomlin decided to go for two to make it a three-point game. The Steelers didn't convert, and remained down five. 

It seemed meaningless at the time—but after David Garrard was intercepted again, the Steelers found the end zone and went up 29-28.

The failure on the first conversion compelled Tomlin to go for two again—and the try was once again unsuccessful.

Here's a message to Tomlin and every other coach in the league: Only go for two if you absolutely HAVE TO.

Had Pittsburgh taken the extra point in each of those scenarios, they would've been up 31-28 at the end—and Josh Scobee's field goal would have only forced overtime. I realize there were under four minutes left when Miller scored to make it 28-23, but you never know what will happen down the stretch.

My two cents: If you're down by two or up by one in the final two minutes, you should go for two. Outside of a few other special situations, that's it.

Coaches like to rely on a chart to tell them when to try the two-point conversion—but the chart is based solely on probability, and not on the flow of the game. 

Aside from Garrard's two late interceptions, the Jags dominated the game. Still, the Steelers were well within reach in the fourth quarter—and had they simply chosen to take the easy points, they might be the ones gearing up for the next round of the playoffs.

Tomlin is a rookie coach, and I hope he's learned his lesson.  For now, it's congrats to the Jags.