I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to know the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t force many turnovers this year, one of the driving reasons why they’re sitting at home on New Year’s Day. What might be a surprise is just how bad the numbers are.
Some facts. For 2018, the Steelers forced just 15 takeaways, tied for 29th in the NFL. Only the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, two teams who finished a combined 10-22, were worse.
The 15 takeaways are tied for the fewest in franchise history, equaling the lowly amount in 2011, a year where the team still managed to go 12-4 and make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh finished with 52 sacks, tied for the most in football with the Kansas City Chiefs. Of the 114 teams since sacks became an official stat in 1982 to record at least 50 in a year, the Steelers are the first to finish with fewer than 20 takeaways. Again, just 15, so they’re not even close.
That….I wish I was making that up.
Normally, sacks and pressure correlate to turnovers. Not with this defense. As was my concern right before the draft started, they didn’t find the playmakers in the back end to capitalize when they had the chance. And they clearly had the chances. We covered ten of their dropped interceptions following the Oakland Raiders debacle. Pro Football Focus then charted the Steelers at the top in that category with 13. Make even half those plays and the numbers at least appear digestible and you almost certainly have another win, a victory that would’ve vaulted you into the playoffs.
Last year’s rendition of the Steelers didn’t fare much better. 56 sacks, which led the league, but only 21 takeaways to show for it. That’s the fifth fewest of any of those 114 aforementioned teams. 2018 wasn’t just a fluke. It’s the beginning of a trend. An alarming one.
That playmaking will have to come out of house next year. There aren’t any up-and-comers you can count on to change the tide. Maybe Cam Sutton gets a better shot but he’s not at that level. Ola Adeniyi probably won’t rise above being the #3 outside linebacker, the Anthony Chickillo role, which will limit his impact. Changes have to be made.
You can’t find the next Gerod Holliman, focusing only on interception numbers, but if your a prospect without interceptions? I’m probably going to pass. This defense can’t live with just solid. They need splash. At least one guy to bring that. Right now, that dude isn’t on the team.