Somehow, some way, some why, the Pittsburgh Steelers are significantly more productive in taking the ball away this season than they were a year ago. In fact, their 15 takeaways through the first six games of the 2019 season matches the total that they had all of last year over the course of 16 games.
But nobody is really keeping score, keeping track of who gets what and when. They don’t have a turnover chain. What they have, instead, is punishment. Will Graves of the Associated Press asked Terrell Edmunds if they were tracking the turnovers. He said the only thing they track is dropped interceptions in practice.
Those who drop the ball have to do pushups. And every one you drop increases the number of pushups you have to do. That, coupled with the institution of mandatory work on the Jugs machine, is a sign of how the Steelers are holding themselves more accountable in this department.
Asked Terrell Edmunds if the defense is keeping track of just how many turnovers it’s producing. (15 so far, as many as they created in 2018).
Said only thing they track are dropped picks in practice. The penalty: pushups (w/a sliding scale for multiple violations).#Steelers
— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) October 24, 2019
Remember, the issue last season wasn’t about finding ways to be around the ball. It was about making the plays when you’re in position to make them. The Steelers dropped about a dozen or so passes in 2018 that they could have intercepted.
Will a bunch of pushups in practice be the difference between a defensive back making an interception and dropping the ball? Realistically, probably not, at least directly. What the institutional discipline does, however, is foster a greater sense of mutual accountability.
Everybody understands in this way that when you hurt yourself, you hurt the team and everybody else on it. The pressure to make the play for your group, to not let them down, is certainly a greater motivator than the avoidance of a couple of pushups on the practice field.
While they have dropped some passes that could have possible intercepted—some of them incredibly difficult, such as the one Mike Hilton had a stab at against the Los Angeles Chargers—they have clearly been much more successful overall in capitalizing on their opportunities when they have been presented.
Devin Bush has two interceptions already and leads the team. T.J .Watt got himself one. Minkah Fitzpatrick got the first one from a safety in a while. Cameron Sutton and Hilton each got one for themselves, as did Kameron Kelly. Mark Barron is the other player to have come down with one.
And we haven’t even seen either of their starting cornerbacks, or Edmunds, their starting strong safety, get one yet. That tells me there is still room for this group to be even greedier. And they’ll come. They still have 10 more games, after all.