Mike Tomlin is all about splash. Make a couple of those plays defensively and your odds of winning go way up. But the Pittsburgh Steelers have been far too quiet in that area and was one of the first aspects of his team Tomlin mentioned during his weekly Tuesday press conference.
“We gotta get the ball more,” Tomlin told the media. “We’re not producing enough turnovers. I think we’ve gotten nine in seven games. We’re talking about 20s priors to playing Cleveland in terms of their output. They’re setting the standard there. We want to be in any of those conversations. We believe getting the ball will help us in our efforts. We gotta get the ball more.”
Tomlin is correct the Steelers have just nine takeaways in seven games. That has them tied for 19th in the NFL and third in the AFC North, ahead of only Baltimore, who have a better defense overall.
Over the last several years, there’s a strong correlation between takeaways and Super Bowl winning teams. The last organization to hoist a Lombardi while finishing in the bottom half in takeaways was the New Orleans Saints in 2009. Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles finished fourth before their Super Bowl run.
Pittsburgh is no stranger to this correlation. In 2008, they finished fourth in takeaways and tied for 7th in 2005, their last two Super Bowl winning seasons.
While there has been overall improvement with this defense, better communication, surer tackling, a little more pressure, the turnovers haven’t followed suit. And four of those nine came in one quarter, the second quarter barrage against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in Week Three. That’s the only game where the Steelers have finished with more than one takeaway. They have just three over their last four games.
With the schedule getting much tougher in the very near future, starting with a tough matchup against the Ravens (Baltimore was +1 in the turnover category in the previous meeting), this defense will need to make a lot more noise if they want to continue their winning streak.