Even with the return of Ben Roethlisberger, many still hung the hopes of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season on the backs of the team’s defense, which in 2019 led the league not just in sacks but also in takeaways, while also placing well in virtually every other meaningful statistic, including yardage and points allowed.
The Steelers have not had quite the consistency defensively so far that they would like to see, as several defenders have admitted, and they have also on numerous occasions mentioned a desire to continue to improve on the communication, but there are a lot of good things they have been doing as well.
They have, for example, five takeaways in three games. That won’t quite get them to where they were last season during which they produced an eye-popping 39 takeaways, but it’s a strong start that includes four interceptions—by T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Joe Haden, and Mike Hilton. Hilton also has a recovered fumble for the fifth takeaway.
Even with a game back, the Steelers’ four interceptions still ranks tied for the sixth-most in the NFL so far through the first four weeks of the 2020 season. Only two teams—the Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts—have produced more than five so far.
And they just so happen to be coming up against the most mistake-prone quarterback in the NFL this season, at least by one metric tracked by Pro Football Focus of which I have become a fan over the years: the turnover-worthy throw.
Separate from interceptions, turnover-worthy throws account for all throws in which a quarterback places a ball through the air in harm’s way—in other words, he throws a pass that realistically could have been intercepted, or even should have, even if the defender ends up dropping the ball, for example.
By their tracking, Carson Wentz has thrown 14 turnover-worthy balls so far this season. Nobody else has had more than eight so far, a three-ways tied for second between Dak Prescott, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Teddy Bridgewater.
Most turnover worthy plays this season:
🔹 Carson Wentz – 14
🔹 Dak Prescott/ Teddy Bridgewater/ Ryan Fitzpatrick – 8 pic.twitter.com/LaAd7ASrYY
— PFF (@PFF) October 8, 2020
Unsurprisingly, Wentz also leads the league in interceptions with seven, being one of five quarterbacks so far who have thrown at least five interceptions this year, meaning that they are averaging more than one interception per game.
A defense with the best pass-rush in the league and among the most defensive interceptions, playing a team with a quarterback who throws the most turnover-worthy balls, protected by an injury-riddled offensive line, at home, in front of fans.
I like the odds of the Steelers getting themselves a couple of interceptions on Sunday, let’s just put it that way. Oh, and did I mention that he has also lost the ball once so far on his four fumbles? He is averaging two giveaways per game.