The Pittsburgh Steelers became the first team since the 2015 season to lose a game with a turnover margin of plus-three or better this evening as they fell to the San Francisco 49ers. But it seems fitting anyway, as three of those turnovers were unforced errors by the home team, and the Steelers did very little with them.
Incredible, Pittsburgh technically recorded five defensive takeaways in the game. The offense managed to score two field goals on those five possessions, and on both occasions, those two scoring drives started in field goal range.
Meanwhile, the offense gave up the ball twice, both in the second half, and the 49ers took full advantage, scoring touchdowns, including the game-winner, which put them up by four with 1:15 left on the clock.
“We turned the ball over twice, and on both occasions, we gave up touchdowns”, head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game. “First of all, we ‘ve got to do a good job of taking care of the ball. We know that. Particularly in the state that we’re in from a health standpoint. We didn’t do it”.
Mason Rudolph, making his first start, escaped pressure on one play in the second half only to make an ill-advised throw into double coverage to JuJu Smith-Schuster that was intercepted. In the fourth quarter, after the 49ers botched a snap by snapping the ball into a wide receiver in motion, the defense recovered, but James Conner fumbled three plays later to give San Francisco possession again, not far from where they were. And they scored the game-winning touchdown.
“We’ve got to support the offense, and get off, at least some of the time”, Tomlin said of the defense’s inability to combat the quick-change offense following turnovers. “We turned the ball over twice, they scored two touchdowns in the second half, and really, that’s the difference in the game. In the first half, we were getting turnovers, and we were settling for field goals. That’s the storyline of the game. We take responsibility for it. We own it. Not good enough today”.
Of the Steelers’ five turnovers, only two were truly earned. Their second interception came off of a Joe Haden deflection, picked off by Minkah Fitzpatrick. Later, Fitzpatrick also forced a fumble in the red zone that was recovered by Devin Bush.
The other three turnovers consisted of two botched snaps or hand-off exchanges and a dropped pass in and out of a running back’s hands and into T.J. Watt’s. These were fortuitous plays that only indicate an improved aggressiveness in getting to loose balls, and not an indicator of being able to create loose-ball scenarios, so they reflect little on the notion of sustainability.