The Pittsburgh Steelers enter this game as one of the best defenses in the league in taking the ball away, and they are preparing to go up against one of the teams who are the best at protecting the football in the Indianapolis Colts. While their 3-4 record may not look great, it would be worse if Pittsburgh were not taking the ball away; likewise, the Colts would not be 5-2 without their ability to stave off giving the ball up.
Pittsburgh has 19 takeaways in total, with at least two in each of the past six games, and four coming on Monday, with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Minkah Fitzpatriick picked off two passes, T.J. Watt forced two fumbles, Mike Hilton another. Watt recovered one of his, and Steven Nelson scooped up the one that Hilton dislodged.
Fitzpatrick has three interceptions and a forced fumble. Watt has an interception and three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Devin Bush has two interceptions and four fumble recoveries. These are three young players—all former first-round picks—who are contributing significantly to the Steelers winning the turnover battle and keeping them in games.
So how to the Colts prepare? Like any other week, according to their offensive coordinator, Nick Sirianni. At least, more or less. “We know games are won and lost on the turnover battle”, he told reporters last week. “That’s not just this game, knowing that we’re playing a team that creates a lot of turnovers. It’s just not our emphasis this game, it is our emphasis every game that we play”.
Unfortunately, the Steelers have lost a couple games this year in which they won the turnover battle, the most egregious being the failure against the San Francisco 49ers. The Baltimore Ravens game, in which they intercepted Lamar Jackson three times, stung as well.
Sirianni went a bit into the work the Colts do on a weekly basis as an emphasis on protecting the football. “I believe we have the best-in-the-business ball security coach, in our running back coach, Coach Rathman”, he said. “He’s unbelievable with the fundamentals he teaches for our ball security”.
“They get a 10-minute meaning on how the opponent that we play creates turnovers each week”, he added. “We have a turnover circuit where we’re protecting the football. So it is an emphasis that we really pay a ton of attention to each week, regardless of the opponent. Obviously with their production, we’ll be even more in-tune to it this week”.
It sounds as though Indianapolis will be coming into today’s game well-prepared to hold on to the ball. But isn’t that the plan every team comes into games with? Turnovers happen when your plan goes awry, after all. It helps to prepare and plan, of course, but defenses are all about disrupting such things.