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2021 South Side Questions: Will Steelers Better Manage Turnover Differential?

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 are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. 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 better manage the turnover differential?

The Steelers were blown out by 26 points the last time that they faced the Kansas City Chiefs. They did, however, turn the ball over three times, and Kansas City’s subsequent drives off of those turnovers netted them 17 points.

You’re not going to beat a team like the Chiefs with a minus-three turnover differential very often; you’re more likely to see the sort of lopsided score that we got the first time around. But if the Steelers can protect the football, and maybe even get an extra possession or two, perhaps the story can be rewritten.

Let’s say the defense comes up with a couple of turnovers—T.J. Watt gets a strip sack off of Patrick Mahomes and Minkah Fitzpatrick comes down with an interception. Taking that as a given prior to kickoff, and assuming that the Steelers don’t turn the ball over, so you like their chances of winning now?

Because that’s most likely what they’ll need in order to escape Arrowhead Stadium with a win. The fact is they generally have had success when they win the turnover battle—and they’re minus-two on the season overall.

They’ve only finished plus-two in turnover margin twice this season, but they’ve won both games. Both have come in the past four weeks. Four of their five games in which they produced multiple turnovers on the season have also come within the past five games. Straight up, they are 7-2 when they finish a game with more takeaways than giveaways this year, with losses only to the Vikings and Chargers. In contrast, they’re 0-5-1 when they lose the turnover battle (they’re also 2-0 in ties).

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