2020 Offseason Questions: Can Steelers Defense Produce Similar Takeaway Numbers?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Can the Steelers defense produce a similar number of takeaways in 2020?

The Steelers defense produced 36 takeaways last season (remember, they got two from their special teams unit, as well). They had just 15 the year before that. Outside of 2015, with 30, they typically hovered around the area of the low 20s in terms of total takeaways during the past decade, at least since they had 35 in 2010.

On paper, though, this is the best defense that they had since 2010. Is it not unreasonable that they should produce similar results? Maybe they won’t quite average better than two turnovers per game, but will they manage something close to that? Say, 28 or 30 takeaways?

During the 2019 season, the Steelers had four players produce at last six takeaways in MInkah Fitzpatrick, Devin Bush, T.J. Watt, and Joe Haden. They had multiple players record at least five interceptions. I can’t even tell you the last time that that happened (scratch that, I can: 2000, with Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott).

The question is—can they do again what they did last season? They are bringing back virtually the same personnel absent Javon Hargrave and Mark Barron, and there shouldn’t be any notable dropoff from their players due to age or injury. But takeaways can be a fluky thing, not easy to plan for.

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