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Robinson: The automatic extra point? It certainly wasn’t for ’81 Steelers

Steelers kicker missed eight extra points in 1981

Steelers kicker missed eight extra points in 1981

By Alan Robinson

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s idea to remove the extra point from the game no doubt would have been opposed by the Steelers’ divisional opponents in 1981.

That season, Steelers kicker David Trout — the former Pitt kicker — missed EIGHT extra points.

You read that correctly. Eight extra points.

Trout went 38 of 46 that season, an 82.6 percent success rate that was barely higher than his 70.6 percent rate on field goals (12 of 17). What’s interesting is he was 3-for-3 on field goals that were extra point-length.

Not surprisingly, that was Trout’s one and only full season with the Steelers. He returned to their replacement team at age 30 in 1987 and went 10-of-10 on extra points, but missed both of his field goal attempts, neither of which was longer than 39 yards.

Since 1938, when the league began accurately tracking conversions, Trout’s eight misses are tied for the most in a season. Steve Little was 24 of 32 for St. Louis in 1979 — his 75 percent conversion rate is the lowest of the NFL’s modern era — and Tom Dempsey of the 1976 Rams was 36 of 44 (81.8 percent). Dempsey, of course, held the record for the longest field goal, of 63 yards, for decades.

No NFL kicker has missed more than five extra points in a season since Trout’s season, according to multiple NFL statistical databases; Max Zendejas of the 1986 Redskins (23 of 28, 82.1 percent) and Pat Leahy of the 1982 Jets (26 of 31, 83.9 percent) both missed five.

Trout wasn’t the only Steelers kicker to struggle with the PAT at times; Mike Clark was 19 of 24 (79.2 percent) for the 1965 Steelers and Gary Kerkorian of the 1952 Steelers missed six of 41 attempts (85.4 percent). And Kris Brown missed three of 37 attempts in 2001, the first season of play on Heinz Field’s kicker-unfriendly turf.

Excluding the 1987 season, when teams used replacement kickers for part of the season, there have been 673 extra points missed since 1982, the year after Trout’s repeated misses.

Kickers have missed 448 extra points since 1988, but only 49 — an average of fewer than 10 per season — over the past five seasons. Kickers are 6,059 of 6,108 on extra points since 2009.

It wouldn’t get much worse than this for the Steelers — other than missing the playoffs because of an officiating error in a city nearly 3,000 miles away.

The Steelers being forced to appear on HBO’s all-revealing “Hard Knocks” series during training camp.

The Steelers are among the most closed-door teams in the league, and they’re not interested in revealing any state secrets. But HBO’s access is blanketing, and it would certainly show some inner workings the Steelers aren’t eager at all to reveal.

According to guidelines adopted last year by the NFL, a team is exempt from
appearing only if it has been on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years; has a new head coach or has made the playoffs in either of the preceding two seasons.

The Steelers are one of seven teams that don’t meet any of the exemptions. The others are the Bills, Jaguars, Raiders, Giants, Buccaneers and Rams. Given the Steelers’ national following and coast-to-coast popularity, they would likely be a prime candidate in HBO’s eyes. The Giants would be another.

The five teams that have been on Hard Knocks since 2007 are the Chiefs, Cowboys, Bengals (twice), Jets and Dolphins. The Bengals were on only last summer, so that might be the Steelers’ one out — HBO doesn’t want a second AFC North team in as many seasons.

Another NFL team also could volunteer to be on the show.

The Cowboys and Bengals have both been on twice. The Ravens appeared on the first Hard Knocks in 2001.

Safety Troy Polamalu, who pulled out of the Pro Bowl because of injury, and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons were the only Steelers players to be on the field for all 1,093 snaps on defense this season.

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