One of the biggest issues that the Pittsburgh Steelers had been having as a team this season had been an inability by the offense to capitalize on the defense’s turnovers and put those balls into the endzone when they get the opportunity.
This remains an ongoing problem. The Steelers recorded three interceptions on Sunday, and failed to even score on any of those drives, in spite of the fact that they started on the Los Angeles Rams’ 31 on one occasion. The third takeaway was at the end of the game, so should not count, but going 0 for 2 is still bad.
One issue that is improving, at least in Mike Tomlin’s eyes, is the opposite, the defense responding when the offense turns the ball over. As I have previously written, they had actually been pretty terrible at this. Prior to last week, opponents had been able to produce six touchdowns off of nine turnovers. And in two of the failures, a field goal was still achieved, including the overtime winner by the Baltimore Ravens. The New England Patriots punted in week one following a turnover, but that was late in a blowout.
Over the past two games, however, they have turned the ball over three times, and have allowed one touchdown, one field goal, and produced a turnover of their own in response. And on both scoring drives, their opponent began the drive in field goal range.
“Thankfully, we’ve also grown in terms of our ability to stand up in the face of that adversity that we created”, Tomlin told reporters yesterday during his pre-game press conference.
“Earlier in the year we weren’t getting off the field on defense when we were put on short fields”, he explained. “More recently, we’ve been more successful at either getting off the field or at least holding people to field goals, and I think that that’s a critical element of supplementing and supporting one another in play”.
The defense was one-for-one on Sunday in preventing their opponents from capitalizing on turnovers. Following James Washington’s fumble, Javon Hargrave was able to get to Jared Goff four plays, later, knocking the ball out, which Minkah Fitzpatrick picked up and scored on.
That play occurred on third and seven, with the Rams having failed to gain a first down on the drive, at their own 41, so even if the play had only been ruled an incomplete pass, the defense still would have done its job and have stood up in the quick-change scenario that had been such an issue.
This was literally the first time since Week One, and the first time against an opponent really trying to score, that the defense has taken the field following an offensive giveaway and prevented the other team from doing so.
That fact in and of itself is bad; however, it is a sign that things are improving, and in an area that very much is in need of improvement, so if it comes now, all the better. What’s in the past is in the past.