Last night on Twitter, I wrote that the Pittsburgh Steelers had scored 17 points off of turnovers against the Houston Texans, mockingly adding “also, the Steelers have turnovers tonight”.
The truth is, however, that the team has forced at least one turnover now in five straight games, reaching a season-high three turnovers last night in Heinz field, who of which came deep in enemy territory and led to touchdowns during a gigantic momentum swing at the end of the first half.
It began in the third game of the season against the Carolina Panthers when Jarvis Jones got to Cam Newton for a strip sack, recovered by the Steelers and converted into seven points. Later in the game, the special teams recovered a muffed punt in the end zone.
The following week, Cortez Allen recorded the team’s first interception of the year, adding another a week later. But it was Brice McCain’s interception in that same game that helped the Steelers secure the victory.
Even in the miserable defeat last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, who only had one turnover at that point, Mike Mitchell was able to force a fumble that the Steelers recovered, even if they failed to capitalize on it.
The Steelers exploded with turnovers against the Texans, starting with a forced fumble by Jason Worilds recovered on the three-yard line, which was quickly converted into points.
Literally seconds later in game time, Brett Keisel was the recipient of an interception off a deflected pass returned in close proximity to the end zone, which also finished with a touchdown. Later in the game, Mitchell forced his second fumble in as many weeks, and the Steelers were able to add a field goal from it.
That’s now nine takeaways in seven games, which would put the Steelers on pace for about 20 turnovers on the year. That wouldn’t be a bad mark to hit at all considering all their struggles in turning the ball over in recent years.
Of course, it’s never a bad time for a turnover when your defense is out on the field. But the Steelers were also opportunistic with their takeaways.
The first two turnovers came with their opponents backed up deep in their own end, giving the offense very rare excellent starting field position. The final turnover came after a long reception as the Texans attempted to crawl back into the game late. That led to the field goal in a one-possession victory.
The Steelers have recorded multiple turnovers in three of their last five games in addition to recording at least one in that span.
That is a dimension of this defense that has been missing far too often in recent years, and this recent spurt must be something to build from going forward as the defense looks to find its strength, because it hasn’t been keeping teams out of the end zone.