What about the Steelers? Should They Have Gone for the TD?

The Steelers were trailing the Dolphins by 2 points with 2:28 to play. After a very controversial replay, which I won't get into here, the Steelers faced 4th and goal from inside the 1. They elected to kick a FG, and hung on to win 23-22. But should they have gone for the TD?

FGs from that range are virtually automatic. But with that much time left, a FG gives the Dolphins plenty of time to get into FG range in response. With a FG and a 1 point lead, PIT would have a 0.59 WP.

Going for it from the one on the goal line would typically be successful 68% of the time. A TD and a 6 point lead would make MIA's task that much tougher, giving PIT a 0.74 WP. A failed attempt would give MIA the ball inside their own 1, worth about 0.19 WP for PIT. I say 'about' because there are few examples of teams backed up on their own goal lines with a 1-point lead.

In total, going for the TD is worth:

(0.68 * 0.74) + (0.32 * 0.19) = 0.56 WP

In this case, kicking the FG is the percentage play, but it's very close. The break-even probability of success is 72%, not far off from the baseline of 68%.

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12 Responses to “What about the Steelers? Should They Have Gone for the TD?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    any thoughts on the increase in scoring following the rules changes?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Does this analysis include the possibility of a safety after Miami got the ball?

    A safety would give Pittsburgh the lead...and the ball...

  3. Anonymous says:

    Whoops, sorry...a safety would have tied the game, but given Pittsburgh the ball with plenty of time to get into field goal range.

    Must be early. I forgot the point spread before the FG attempt.

    (BTW, Brian, you said that there are "few examples of teams backed up on their own goal lines with a 1 point lead," but Miami would have had a 2 point lead...same mistake I made.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I know you probably get tired of running these "4th Down" analyses, but any chance you'd like to take a look at the Chiefs 4th down midway through the 4th quarter? With 11:23 left in the game, the Chiefs were up 28-20 one the Jacksonville 24, the Chiefs went for it on 4th and 2 (and failed).

    A successful field goal would have made it a two-possession game. It was pretty windy, but ignoring that, was going for it the correct call?

  5. Anonymous says:

    The extra element here is that Roethlisberger is HORRIBLE on QB sneaks, probably under .50 in his career on sneaks of less than a yard.

  6. Matt says:

    The Steelers would have gone for 2 (yet another variable in the calculation). The difference between 5 and 6 points is negligible, but between 6 and 7 points is bigger. Does the 2 point conversion change things?

  7. Chase says:

    Have to say, my gut reaction was going for it was the right move. Possibility of a safety + getting the ball back and/or forcing a three-and-out and then having a short field for a field goal. With Pitt's D, maybe it makes sense, but my gut was definitely telling me they should go for it. And as someone rooting for Miami, I wanted Pittsburgh to kick it.

  8. Kos says:

    Can you re-run this with the 2PC factored in (instead of them going up by only 6, which would never happen)? If 40-plus percent of the time, you go up 7, that has to significantly raise the WP since you essentially can't lose in regulation.

  9. Ian Simcox says:

    Matt - I thought that at first, but the score was 20-22. A TD makes it 26-22, XP 27-22 or 2PT for 28-22. Either way, it's a 4, 5 or 6 point lead and Miami needs a TD.

    I assume they would go for the 2PT and the 6 point lead because at least if Miami scores a TD then you've still got the (slight) chance of a blocked XP to go to OT.

  10. Kos says:

    ^Heh, glad to see I'm not the only one who made that mistake. Oops. Amazingly, I even did the same thing DURING the game.

    I would assume that, if it had been 21-20, going for it becomes the better option.

  11. Matt says:

    Woah ... yeah ... obviously it was 22-20. I guess we're all way more used to seeing 21 than 22 as a score.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I was hoping Miami would go for it on 4th and 1,at end of second with 20 seconds left They kicked a field goal, but had they not succeeded if they went for it the ravens couldn't just kneel to kill the clock. Wouldn't going for it had been worth it since you would even have a shot at a safety if you failed?

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