The Pittsburgh Steelers can get away with a lot of things against a lot of teams because of their talent. One thing they cannot get away with, however, is giving up possessions against one of the highest-scoring offenses in the entire league, and that is exactly what they did in critical moments against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
“We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball”, Head Coach Mike Tomlin said in recapping the loss yesterday. “We talked about how New Orleans hunts the ball. We turned the ball over twice in the waning moments of that game in scoring territory, which was significant”.
The Steelers fumbled twice in the fourth quarter, first with a lead and then as they tried to make a comeback after giving up the lead. They were on the cusp of field goal range when they decided to hand the ball off to Stevan Ridley on third and two. He fumbled.
After Sunday’s game, Tomlin had already said that it was hist intention to go for it on fourth down had he not gotten it. Of course he wasn’t counting on the veteran fumbling. Not that he hasn’t had a history of fumbling in his past, or that he hasn’t already fumbled this year on limited touches. But he had success in the past few games working in short-yardage, goal-line, and deep-field opportunities.
The Steelers were able to hold the Saints’ offense to a long field goal attempt which the special teams unit blocked, which largely negated the effect of the turnover, but it also took them out of scoring range and prevented him from even having an attempt to add a field goal.
Then on the final drive of the game, down three, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster fumbled the ball after making a catch that, again, put the offense right on the cusp of field goal range. The Saints recovered and ended the game.
In both cases, New Orleans made a strong, concerted effort to dislodge the ball, something that the Saints have been good doing all season and had put on tape. Tomlin talked about it last week heading into the game, so it’s something they coached. The players failed in these two instances and, long with many other factors, cost them the game, and perhaps the playoffs.
The defense did get an interception, so they only lost the turnover battle in the game by one, but they are also now minus-10 on the season in that department. The offense has turned the ball over 25 times while the defense has only gotten 15 back. It’s no surprise that that starts to catch up to you at some point.