The Pittsburgh Steelers intercepted 16 passes in 2017. They went 13-3 that year and held a postseason bye week, although they squandered it by falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a high-scoring affair that early on looked like it could be a blowout.
The Steelers intercepted eight passes last season, their lowest total in many, many years. They posted a 9-6-1 record, missing the postseason entirely, even though they were in position for a bye week with six games to play.
Two of their six interceptions did come in that six-game stretch in which they went 2-4. They won one of the games in which they were able to take the ball away—intercepting the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady in the red zone—and lost the other against the New Orleans Saints.
Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler definitely sees a correlation between the two figures: interception total and win-loss record, especially relative to the past two years. He sat down with Missi Matthews during OTas for an interview on the team’s website. “The difference between 13-3 and 9-6-1 were those dropped interceptions for us”, he said.
“Our takeaway ratio wasn’t as good as it has been. I think if we can just catch some of the balls that we had the opportunity to catch”, he said, it would make all the difference. “We’ve got to make sure that if we get our hands on the ball, we have to complete the catch”.
The dropped interceptions are something that we have talked about a number of times this offseason. At least according to Pro Football Focus, no team in the league had more dropped interceptions than the Steelers did in 2018, something like 13 of them if I recall correctly by their count.
Arguably the most damning dropped interception came in the game late in the season against the Los Angeles Chargers, which had the makings of a Steelers blowout early on before a number of quirks went against them.
One thing they definitely could have controlled was a play that went from a should-be interception to a touchdown. Joe Haden had position to pick the ball off intended for Keenan Allen in the end zone. Only Sean Davis collided with his own man. The ball popped up in the air and the wide receiver was able to corral it before it hit the ground in the end zone.
We have to “make sure that we intercept the passes that we have an opportunity to intercept”, Butler said. “We dropped a lot of interceptions last year”. Haden, who had at least two or three of those drops himself despite leading the team with two, saw that as well and knows the team needs to change that.