I know we’ve talked about this a ton and Dave Bryan wrote a scathing but accurate portrayal of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense yesterday. So forgive me for twisting the knife a little further. But one of the most astounding stats of the season is this secondary’s inability to create turnovers.
It’s now seven games to open the year this secondary hasn’t recorded an interception. The three on the year are all from linebackers: Ryan Shazier, James Harrison, and Jarvis Jones.
That isn’t just bad. It’s historically bad. I trudged through the boxscores courtesy of Pro Football Reference and could not find a single start this awful to begin the year. Meaning, this is the first time since 1960 the Steelers’ secondary has gone their opening seven games without a pick from a DB.
That includes a lot of bad teams. The uninspiring groups of the mid to late 80s. The 11 years from 1960-1971, the turn-your-nose pre-Chuck Noll teams and the three years it took before he made them contenders. All those teams did it. This one? Nope.
The previous record was six games, back in 2011, and to be fair, the Steelers still finished 12-4 that season and with 11 total interceptions. So there’s still time for things to turn around.
But compare that to last season. The secondary was poor, the Steelers arguably have more talent this year, but they created turnovers. 17 total interceptions, sixth in the NFL, 12 of them from the secondary. Even the players you hated cashed in with big plays. Antwon Blake’s interceptions come to mind, a pick six against San Diego, and another in the end zone against Cincinnati.
This year? A big ‘ol goose egg. If you’re not going to be great, and this secondary isn’t great, you need to have some splash. Zero interceptions. Zero forced fumbles. Seven weeks.
They’re not facing murderer’s row of quarterbacks either.
Kirk Cousins: 6 INTs
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 11 INTs
Ryan Tannehill: 7 INTs
Chances have been there. William Gay’s dropped possible pick-six against the Miami Dolphins. Ross Cockrell’s oh-so-close breakups this season. But “almost” doesn’t get your offense the ball back. They’re the only team in the league without at least one pick from their DBs.
Combine that with a lack of sacks and general pressure and you get a vastly different looking defense from a year ago that did those two things very well, despite all their obvious shortcomings. It’s a perfect foil for a team led by their offense. Defenses don’t need to be great, just ok and capable of giving the ball back to their offense once or twice a game.
This defense can’t do either. Next-to-last in interceptions. Tied for last in sacks.
And I can’t tell you how things are going to get much better this season.