The Pittsburgh Steelers went about a year and a half without having a single game in which they protected the ball consistently well enough to escape free of giveaways. From a week 10 game against the Carolina Panthers in 2018 all the way to the early portions of this season, they turned the ball over at least once in 23 consecutive games.
Now, they have posted a clean slate in two of their past three games, including in Sunday’s dominant victory over the Cleveland Browns, and that is big in particular because of the fact that Cleveland entered that game leading the NFL in takeaways with 12 on the season.
“We were very transparent about certain elements of the matchup that we had to respond to”, head coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday during his weekly pre-game press conference. “They were a unit defensively that really capitalized on people’s lack of ball security. We thought if we wanted to have a good game, we had to preserve or protect the ball. We were able to do that. I can’t underscore that. Cleveland was leading the NFL in the acquisition of turnovers. To come out of that game clean and have zero turnovers was big for us”.
The Steelers have now turned the ball over four times in five games this season, with three of them coming from the offense. Ben Roethlisberger threw one interception back in week two (though he did have an interceptable ball on Sunday). Benny Snell also fumbled in that game, and Eric Ebron fumbled last week. In the opener, Diontae Johnson muffed and lost the ball on the first punt return attempt of the season.
Only two teams so far this season have turned the ball over fewer than four times. One of those teams is the Tennessee Titans, who have just three giveaways, and they just so happen to be the Steelers’ upcoming opponent, one they were supposed to face weeks ago.
And like the Steelers, they also have nine takeaways on the season, so these are two teams that are quite evenly matched on the plus-minus front in turnovers. Pittsburgh is plus-five, Tennessee plus-six. Only the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks, however, joining the Titans, have a better turnover differential than the Steelers, who are also tied at plus-five with the Kansas City Chiefs.
With just one interception on 165 pass attempts, Ben Roethlisberger currently own the third-best qualifying mark in the league in interception percentage, throwing a pick on just .6 percent of his passes. Only Patrick Mahomes, with one interception on 219 attempts, and Derek Carr with one on 175 attempts, have better margins.