Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau made it clear this past offseason that his defense must do a better job at forcing turnovers this year, and thus far through three preseason games they have not let him down.
Saturday night in the Steelers 38-7 win over the Buffalo Bills the LeBeau led defense recorded three takeaways in the form of two interceptions and fumble recovery, and all three led to touchdowns.
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons kick started the turnovers by stripping Bills running back C.J. Spiller of the football with 10:33 left in the first half. Ziggy Hood fell on the loose ball and the offense cashed it for a touchdown 5 plays later via a touchdown run by Isaac Redman.
Safety Troy Polamalu joined the turnover party on the second play of the second half as he intercepted a floated pass from Bills backup quarterback Vince Young that was intended for tight end Dorin Dickerson. Once again that turnover led to points as Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich hit wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 39 yard touchdown on the first play following the interception.
The defense was not done helping out the offense on the night as undrafted free agent safety Robert Golden intercepted another fourth quarter pass by Young and returned it 47 yards to the Bills 8 yard-line. Two plays later the Steelers offense was back in the end zone via a slip screen pass from Leftwich to wide receiver Derrick Williams from 10 yards out.
Three turnovers, 21 points.
While three turnovers seems like a lot, the defense could have had at least two more in the game as linebacker LaMarr Woodley dropped a sure interception of a Larry Foote deflected pass and he nearly had another as he dropped into zone coverage on another pass play later in the game.
The 3 turnovers Saturday night now give the Steelers defense 7 on the preseason. Thanks to the offense only turning the ball over once in three games, the team currently leads the league in turnover differential with a plus 6 number.
While none of this matters in the preseason, there is reason for optimism that the league low 15 turnovers the defense forced last year was merely an arbitration as LeBeau stated a few times this offseason. Let\’s hope it is a sign of things to come this upcoming season.