Given the long-known absences of the likes of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, followed by the unplanned-for injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has really just been fortunate to scrape by and hope the defense can keep making plays.
For the most part, it has. In 12 games, the defense has taken the ball away 30 times, the most in the league, and they have managed at least two turnovers in 10 of those games. In the other two, they didn’t get any, however, and both of them accounted for the Steelers’ biggest losses of the season, by 14 points or more.
That if anything is the red flag for today’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, because this team, despite its relative lack of success, has only turned the ball over nine times all season, the third-fewest in the NFL, and fewer than one per game. The defense literally takes it away more than three times as often as they’re willing to give it up.
That starts with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, as Mike Tomlin discussed yesterday on The Mike Tomlin Show. “He’s taking care of the ball. They in general have been taking care of the ball. They’ve only turned the ball over nine times on the season”, he said.
“It’s been a real positive aspect of play for them. They’re not winning games the way they would like to, but offensively, a lot of it’s going through him, his arms, his legs, they’re taking care of the ball, they’re really laying a good foundation for the organization in that phase”.
On the season, Murray has thrown just six interceptions, once every other game, doing so on already 427 pass attempts. His 1.4 percent interception ratio is very respectable and then some, especially this early into his career. In fact, it’s the seventh-lowest in the NFL. It’s also less than half of Mason Rudolph’s. and Devlin Hodges’ as well, for that matter.
Additionally, not only have they only lost three fumbles on the season, they have only fumbled, period, five times, which is exceptional. The Steelers have recovered almost every fumble they have forced this year, but the Cardinals are fumbling in fewer than half of their games.
It will be an interesting struggles between the most opportunistic defense in the league against one of the stingiest offenses. The fact that the Steelers have quite literally depended upon those defensive takeaways to win games this season is another huge wrinkle in this story.