The Pittsburgh Steelers spent much of the 2020 season leading the NFL in takeaways. But after failing to turn the ball over via the defense or special teams in two of the past three games—all three of those games resulting in losses—they are not leading anymore.
They’re still second, granted, but the number of turnovers you had before doing into a game doesn’t help you win the next one. And over the past three weeks, they have lost the turnover battle twice and twice it just one time.
In fact, it’s been five weeks since they won the turnover battle, something that they have done eight times this year in their 11 victories, only losing the turnover battle once during that initial 11-game run, which was Ben Roethlisberger’s three-interception game against the Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers two takeaways over the past three games is the lowest total that they have had in any three-game stretch over the course of the 2020 season. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler knows that is not going to cut it.
“The turnover, takeaway ratio, we have to win that dadgum part of it”, he told reporters earlier today, via transcript, in the way that only he can—or would. “That’s getting turnovers. How’s that causing fumbles? The sack fumbles, interceptions, stuff like that, we have to talk that up, and we have to do it”.
They have done it pretty well, registering 25 takeaways in the first 14 games, even after having just two over the last three. That includes an NFL-high 17 interceptions, but where they have trailed off from last year is punching the ball out for fumbles and recovering them.
The Steelers have recovered just eight fumbles this year, compared to 18 a year ago. T.J. Watt had eight forced fumbles by himself in 2019, and Bud Dupree had another four. This year, Cameron Sutton leads the way with three forced fumbles, and Dupree and Stephon Tuitt are the only other ones with more than one.
Butler admitted that there can be a reliance on getting turnovers, but that is true for any defense in this age. Not many units are going to force a team to punt on 75 percent of their possessions, so if you want to keep your opponents from scoring, you’re going to have to find other ways to put the ball back in the hands of your offense.