In 2011 the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers was good, if not great, in several statistical categories as they led the league in pass defense and scoring defense. While the run defense finished eighth, a category defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau admits that he wants to lead the league in every year, the biggest improvement he would like to see his unit make in 2012 is in the turnover category, and he is confident they will.
“Well I would say upping the turnovers is definitely number one,” said LeBeau on Thursday when asked if improving turnovers was more important than improving against the run or putting more pressure on the opposing quarterback this upcoming season. “I think our pressure on the passer was good. We led the league in pass defense,” said LeBeau. He continued on, “We led the league in scoring defense, so I always want to be one against the run, but we weren\’t. I think we were eight, but we were one in scoring. So there\’s no question in my mind that turnovers are where we\’ve got to give a better number than what we had last year and I\’m confident we will, we always have, but we didn\’t last year. Until we do it, the number is what it is,” concluded the Hall of Famer.
It\’s no wonder why the defensive genius would point to the need of turnovers. Last year the team was last in the league with just 15 takeaways, which consisted of 11 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries, 1 of which came courtesy of special teams. It was the lowest number of takeaways a LeBeau led defense has ever posted in all of his years as a defensive coordinator.
While LeBeau said that pressure on the passer was good last year, it certainly did not help that outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley both missed considerable time last year with injuries. In addition, inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons was forced to play outside quite a bit due to the injuries. Those aren\’t excuses mind you, but it is worth noting. The 35 sacks the defense registered last season was the lowest number posted by a Steelers defense since they registered 36 in 2007. More sacks equates to more opportunities for turnovers.
There is no magic formula for creating turnovers, but LeBeau did give more thoughts on it as the team heads into their mandatory mini-camp next week. “Just preach it and practice it,” LeBeau said. “Turnovers are funny, one year you\’re up there, the next year you\’re not. But I see no reason why we were as low as we were last year. That\’s not good. We have to improve that number.” LeBeau is confident that they will and so am I.