The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to record a single turnover during the first two games of the season. In the last three, they have recorded five.
The Steelers recovered two fumbles during a Week Three victory against the Carolina Panthers, first on a sack by Jarvis Jones, and then later on special teams when Shamarko Thomas knocked the ball loose and Robert Golden recovered in the end zone.
Cortez Allen came up with the team’s first interception of the year last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a deep ball that was, frankly, aided by the wide receiver pulling up lame with a gimpy hamstring.
This past Sunday, the defense put up a pair of interceptions against rookie quarterback Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The first came from Allen again, the first time in his career he’s recorded interceptions in back to back games, and the second from Brice McCain, who returned it 22 yards into the end zone for a pick six—which, believe it or not, the Steelers had three of last year.
Allen himself had one, as did Troy Polamalu and William Gay. But it’s hard to imagine that being the case given how comparatively few turnovers the team has been able to generate over the course of the last few seasons.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau likes to subscribe to the notion that turnovers come in bunches. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it’s not. It’s rarely been the case in recent years, and has made the phrase seem hollow.
But do five turnovers in the past three games count as a bunch? It certainly does for this Steelers team.
Now it’s just a matter of whether or not the defense can continue to pile more interceptions and fumble recoveries on top of that bunch.
The Steelers’ next opponents, the Cleveland Browns, are one of the teams against which they failed to record a turnover already this season.
In fact, the Browns have only turned the ball over once so far in four games, with that first turnover coming on Sunday on a Brian Hoyer interception—before storming back with three touchdown passes to overcome the largest road deficit in league history.
It’s hard to say what kind of team this defense will be in terms of the ability to generate turnovers. Naturally, their turnovers have often revolved around their ability to generate pressure, which has been sporadic in recent years.
It doesn’t help that Jones will be out for at least another six games. But at least the recent ‘bunch’ of turnovers over the course of the last three games is a sign of hope.