2021 South Side Questions: Will Defense Create Takeaways Vs Bengals?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom look to be in a starting role (or complementary role in Freiermuth’s case) for the season opener.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. They have a 53-man roster, though it will always change to some degree. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

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. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Will the Steelers be able to create some takeaways against a young(ish) Bengals offense?

The Steelers’ defense has done a lot of good things so far this year already, though it wasn’t enough last week. One thing they haven’t done enough is create splash plays, particularly the kind that puts the ball in your own quarterback’s hands.

Pittsburgh has only created one takeaway so far, a fumble recovery off of a strip sack by T.J. Watt. But they have forced five fumbles as a defense; they just haven’t had good luck recovering them, so far at just a 20-percent rate.

They haven’t been particularly close to getting any interceptions, but we know that they have guys who are capable of taking away the ball. Both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden had five apiece just two years ago. And Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw three interceptions just last week.

On the other hand, Joe Mixon has only fumbled once since his rookie season, and he is their workhorse back. Burrow did fumble nine times during his rookie season, but he has been sacked 10 times already this year without putting the ball on the ground.

Given who they’re missing on defense, there may be added pressure to take the ball away, and that can go either way. If you press for something, you’re liable not to get it. But you have to make the effort, as well.

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