The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense intercepted four passes in Sunday’s opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Last year, it took them until Week 11 to pick off four passes. While the bulk of the coaching staff remains the same, DBs Coach Grady Brown has seen an increased role in the locker room. And his turnover mindset is paying off on the field. Speaking to reporters after the game, CB Levi Wallace credited Brown for the job he’s done working with the Steelers’ DBs.
“That’s something that goes to our DB Coach, [Grady Brown],” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “Just emphasizing when we first got here back in OTAs that we just can’t miss the easy ones for sure. And then we have to take the ball away. Not just turnovers but take the ball away…I think the defense did a great job of that.”
Brown was hired in 2021, a college football journeyman who had stints with ten different colleges since 2001 and seven since 2015. A relative unknown when Pittsburgh tabbed him, Brown has seemed to do a good job and his role has grown, serving more as Teryl Austin’s assistant last year before moving into a more primary role this summer after Austin was elevated to DC.
Pittsburgh’s five turnovers easily led the league, two more than any other defense accomplished in Week 1. It was the first time they forced five turnovers in an opening game since 2007 when they did so in a blowout win against the Cleveland Browns. Sunday’s game versus Cincinnati was a lot closer and required all five of those turnovers, taking points off the Bengals’ board with Minkah Fitzpatrick scoring as many touchdowns as the Steelers’ offense.
A defense forcing five turnovers in any given game is a rarity. Doing it to begin a year is even less common. It’s the first time a defense has done so in Week 1 since the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns’ (against the Steelers) defense did so back in 2018. Similar to 2019, the Steelers will need to dominate in the takeaway category and be top five in turnover differential.
Pittsburgh’s coaching staff has an aggressive, football-first mindset. That comes from not just Brown but Austin, who has run turnover circuits during training camp since being hired by the team. In fact, since Austin came onboard in 2019, no team has more takeaways than the Steelers’ 92. Here’s the top five.
Most Takeaways (2019-Present)
1. Pittsburgh – 92
2. New England – 88
3. Tampa Bay – 83
4. Buffalo – 82
5. Indianapolis – 82
With depth and talent in the secondary, it’s reasonable to believe the Steelers’ takeaway numbers will continue. Not at the “five a game” level but they’ll take on a Patriots’ offense this weekend that turned the ball over three times in their opener game. So Pittsburgh could add to its total and remain in that top spot, though it’s worth noting the Patriots are in second place and can certainly take the ball away, too.