The Pittsburgh Steelers have produced a whopping three takeaways so far through the first four games of the season. With one interception by safety Terrell Edmunds and a fumble recovery each from lineman Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker T.J. Watt, they are well off the pace they have set in this area in recent years. Head coach Mike Tomlin talked about what they can do to correct that going forward.
“We can start by being in more games”, he said. “When you’re down by multiple scores, you don’t have many opportunities to create that havoc, or that atmosphere, that’s conducive to producing turnovers. They hide the football. They function in a more conservative manner, whether it’s the schematics, or the players themselves”.
The Steelers haven’t played with the lead much this year. Even in the regular-season opener, which they won, they only led for the final 11 minutes. They held a lead for six minutes in the second quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders, and for 12-plus minutes against the Green Bay Packers, for a total of about half an hour—a bit less—through four hours of football.
“In-game circumstances produce more opportunities in that regard”, Tomlin said. So starting fast, matching score for score, being ahead, playing better possession-down football, all the components of creating the atmosphere”.
But they’re not far away, in truth. They have gotten their hands on a couple of passes that they failed to bring in. safety Minkah Fitzpatrick notably had a dropped would-be interception on Sunday. They have produced six forced fumbles, but have only recovered two, yet are always clawing for the ball.
“I like our approach to turnover producing”, Tomlin allowed. “I like the work that we’ve done in that area in terms of team development. It hadn’t come to fruition in the manner in which I’d like yet. Some of that is our doing; we’ve got to capitalize on the opportunities. If we get our hands on balls, we’ve got to catch them”.
Considering the state of the offense, it feels all the more important that the defense—and special teams—is able to produce dynamic splash plays. The only game they’ve won was one in which they scored a special teams touchdown off of a blocked punt.
And they lost by 10 points on Sunday in a game in which they were victimized on a play that produced a 10-point swing. Fitzpatrick blocked a field goal attempt that he returned for a touchdown, only to have it called back on a very questionable offside call.