The Pittsburgh Steelers have only turned the ball over once so far this year; there is only one team who has yet to do so. But the defense has also only taken the ball away once in two games. Most teams have done better than that, and considering the fact that they have recorded 65 turnovers over the past two seasons, they are clearly lagging behind.
Their one turnover came courtesy of T.J. Watt in week one on a strip sack, the ball recovered by Cameron Heyward, who has forced a fumble of his own. The defenders have been knocking the ball out, with five forced fumbles, but they’ve only been successful in possessing one of them.
“Everybody here knows what the standard is and we know it’s not acceptable to not get those turnovers, to not get those splash plays”, Watt told reporters on Friday about their lack of takeaways. “That’s for sure something that we’re gonna focus on as a defense, but I don’t think it’s anything that really needs to be said vocally. We all understand what the mission is as a defense”.
Watt is doing his part with two forced fumbles in two games, and he’s forced 18 fumbles going back to the 2018 season, leading the league with eight in 2019. Heyward, Joe Haden, and Devin Bush have the other forced fumbles so far this season.
As far as interceptions go, they haven’t really come particularly close to getting one so far this year. I don’t recall any instance in which it was clear that a defender dropped a ball that could have been an interception. Heyward, in fact, leads the team in ‘passes defensed’ with three—all batted passes at or near the line of scrimmage.
Cameron Sutton is the only defensive back with more than one pass defensed, that being two. Their entire secondary has just three, with the other belonging to James Pierre. None from Minkah Fitzpatrick; none from Joe Haden; none from Terrell Edmunds. Even Melvin Ingram and Chris Wormley have one.
Given the state of the offense, which is showing clear indications that they’re going to have to be given the opportunity to work on some short fields to score the points needed this year, it’s obvious that the defense’s ability to turn the ball over needs to change this season in a hurry.
They do have the personnel and the coaching to do it. They are aggressive whenever near a static ball carrier, the arms constantly going for the ball. As we’ve seen with the five forced fumbles, there is intent, and attempt. They just have to start converting more. And getting closer when the ball is in the air.