The Pittsburgh Steelers defense failed to record a turnover in either of their first two games of the season this year. But after that, they went seven straight games with at least one, notching multiple in several games. Two of those went for touchdowns off of interceptions (the special teams unit added another touchdown off a muffed punt).
In contrast, the Steelers generally did well protecting the ball, particularly through the air. Ben Roethlisberger had only thrown three interceptions in well over 300 passes coming into yesterday’s game.
He did lose four fumbles, and the team as a whole added another four combined fumbles, but 11 giveaways in nine games is by no means excessive, especially when the Steelers came into the game with 13 takeaways, nearly two a week, over the last seven games.
The New York Jets didn’t care about any of that yesterday, despite coming into the league a long way away from the league leaders in turnover differential. In fact, they were on a historic pace in terms of turnover production, until they met up with the Steelers.
Pittsburgh was coming of some of its best offensive play in perhaps the franchise’s history, producing 124 points over the previous three games on the strength of 15 touchdown passes. A handful of those scores were aided by defensive turnovers.
There were none to be had for the Steelers against Michael Vick and the Jets. Instead, New York more than doubled its season total in takeaways when they intercepted Roethlisberger twice and forced Antonio Brown to fumble twice, recovering both.
Late last week, I wrote about how the Jets believed they could get to Roethlisberger and knock the ball loose. I wrote that it would be the most effective way to produce a turnover, because he had fumbled six times, losing possession four times, already this season, while he’d only thrown three interceptions.
I also wrote that the Jets had been terrible over the past two seasons in recovering fumbled that they had forced. The ball had not been bouncing their way for some time en route to a 108 record and an eight-game losing streak.
But they got all the bounces early in this game, and just enough late, to come out with the 20-13 victory.
Roethlisberger’s first interception, of course, wasn’t so much on him as it was on the receiver, who broke off hi route too early. It allowed the cornerback to attack the ball, popping it up in the air for it to be intercepted. The second, however, was just an overthrow down the middle of the field.
Brown, meanwhile, was relieved of the ball early on after taking a screen pass and getting hit near the line of scrimmage. He fumbled again not long after on a punt return, trying to field it on the run in the hopes of giving the offense a spark.
Instead, it was just another notch in a -4 turnover differential on the afternoon, putting the Steelers back into the minus column in that category for the year.