Through the first three games of the 2016 regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have eight touchdowns and have committed 8 turnovers. That’s not exactly what most fans want to hear, although all eight touchdowns came in two of the games which hopefully makes the Philadelphia Eagles game an outlier.
But when and where is this team finding success? Earlier I mentioned how the Steelers’ lack of first downs contributed to their loss in Philly, and I still stand by that, but many of their struggles have occurred on first and second down.
Firstly, a simple look at the law of averages would tell you that the Steelers are obviously more likely to commit a turnover, or score a touchdown on the first two downs, since they experience more of those in any given game. That being said, I will still surprised to find out that four of Pittsburgh’s five turnovers came in the first two downs. That breaks down to one fumble and three interceptions.
So to keep it concise, here it is:
1st and 2nd down: 3 INT, 1 FUM, 5 TD
3rd and 4th down: 1 INT, 3 TD
With a further look, it appears that only one of those turnovers came in a situation where the team was facing a long down and distance. That was the sack fumble by Fletcher Cox on Ben Roethlisberger last week when the Steelers faced a 2nd and 18. This goes to suggest that the team isn’t necessarily folding under pressure during high-risk situations, but rather are imploding on the initial downs with, at most, ten yards to go. Every turnover came on a passing play, which may also suggest more running on first down.
As a caveat, their turnover numbers could have been much higher as Roethlisberger fumbled three more times, but was able to recover them himself. Should that continue, his luck will eventually run out, as the odds are not likely that one will continue to recover one’s fumbles at a 75% rate.
Regardless, I think this goes to further show that the Steelers need to do better on first and second down. To be fair, Pittsburgh has also scored five of their eight touchdowns on the first two downs, but as it stands right now, they’re more likely to turn it over than to score.
Now, do I actually believe this team is this bad starting drives or new sets of downs? No. This team is extremely talented, and for the most part their offensive schemes have worked. It’s hard to dissect these sorts of things when dealing with as insane of an outlier as the Philadelphia game was. They weren’t able to put one touchdown on the board and turned it over three times.
If only we could remove that game, the figures would show 2 turnovers and 8 touchdowns; A much better picture to look at. But unfortunately that is not the case and we are left with what we have. With the addition of Le’Veon Bell, perhaps they can begin to take back control of the initial downs, and have more successful drives moving forward.
This is not to suggest that DeAngelo Williams was to blame for any of these mishaps, but rather a praise for how defenses are going to act once Bell is in the backfield.
Be on the lookout for what plays are called during the drives on Sunday, especiall on first down. And see how the team responds on third down. I’m thinking they’ll be dialing up something to attack the Chiefs on early downs, because that defense, which is coming off of an 8 turnover performance, will be chomping at the bit for another one.