The Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL last season with 38 takeaways. Lost in that discussion, however, is that they were also among the worst teams in giving the ball away. They turned the ball over 30 times, which ranked as the sixth-most in the league. They threw 19 interceptions alone, by four different players.
They even managed to turn the ball over in every single game of the season. They recorded at least two giveaways nine times, and four or more in a single game twice. There wasn’t a single stretch of three games in which they had fewer than four turnovers.
Through five games in 2020, they have four giveaways in total. Including just one giveaway over the past three games, that being a fourth-quarter fumble by Eric Ebron on a pass that was only barely even a catch to begin with. Of the four giveaways, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown just one interception. He led the NFL with 16 the last time he was healthy for a full season.
Meanwhile, they are set to face a team that is very much like them, with an offense that doesn’t turn the ball over (just three all season) and a defense that does (nine, the same number the Steelers have). Head coach Mike Tomlin understands that protecting the ball and winning the turnover differential is key in today’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
“Man, it is critical in this game”, he told Bob Pompeani on the Mike Tomlin Show. “If you’re turning the ball over, and they’re turning around and handing it to 22 [Derrick Henry], you’re going to have a difficult day. And those are two things that can’t happen for us, and those are the two critical challenges for each unit. Our offense has to maintain possession of the ball in an effort to minimize 22, and our defense has got to minimize 22 in an effort to minimize 22”.
All three of the Titan’s giveaways have come from Ryan Tannehill. He has thrown two interceptions over 172 pass attempts for a highly respectably 1.2 percent interception rate. He has also fumbled the ball three times, losing one of them.
Nobody else on the team has even fumbled, once. I’m not talking about losing possession, but even simply putting the ball on the ground. Derrick Henry has 131 touches on the season so far, and none of them have escaped his mitts.
The Steelers have turned the ball over at least once every game this year, and usually twice. They’ll have their hands full doing it on the road against this Titans team, but the best thing they can do is just make sure that they are taking care of it on offense.