The Pittsburgh Steelers more than at any other point during the course of the 2018 season placed a real emphasis over the course of the past week on the fact that their defense is a unit that has been lacking a great deal in the turnover department, and that they need to do something about it.
While the offense turned the ball over four times the week before, including two interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger—one at the goal line—and a goal-line fumble by Xavier Grimble that resulted in a touchback for the Denver Broncos, a lot of the discussion ended up being focused on the defense’s inability to balance that turnover differential.
It ended up being minus-seven for the season following that game, and it only got worse, as Roethlisberger threw his 13th interception of the season, the defense failing to provide anything in return. Outside of a couple of batted balls by the defensive line, in fact, it was quite difficult for anybody on the defense to try to make a play on a ball in the air.
Defensive captain Cameron Heyward was in no mood for excuses after the game, repeatedly absolving the officials for any blame and bearing the brunt of the loss for himself and his teammates. And part of that was their inability to create short fields via turnover.
“We want to create an atmosphere where turnovers and sacks ho hand in hand, and we’re not getting them”, he said. The defense had one sack on the day, which came from nose tackle Javon Hargrave, now the third game in a row in which he has had at least half a sack.
“They did a great job, Keenan Allen is a great receiver. They ran the ball in the second half and were successful, but we have to get turnovers, we have to get sacks, we have to get more negative plays”, Heyward said. “They were too much on schedule in the second half”.
Including special teams, the Steelers have just 12 takeaways this season, or one per game. They have gotten six interceptions and have recovered six fumbles, but the interesting thing is that three of those 12 takeaways have resulted in scores, including pick sixes from Bud Dupree and Vince Williams and a fumble recovery in the end zone by L.J. Fort off a strip sack by T.J. Watt.
Talking about the importance of getting turnovers and strategies to try to force more of them is easy to do during the week, but it’s much harder to implement and execute them in games and actually see them produce results.
The Steelers are on pace to have their fewest turnovers in a season since 2011 when they had just 15. They did go 12-4 that year, but they failed to win a single postseason game.