It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has struggled for a second consecutive season at getting turnovers and sacks. Those of course are two pretty big elements in winning football games, but outside of those glaring deficiencies the unit has not been awful.
Through the first 14 games of the 2012 regular season the Steelers defense ranks first in yards allowed per game (273.3), passing yards allowed per game (180.6), and first downs allowed per game (17.1). They rank second in yards allowed per play (4.63) and passing yards allowed per play (5.62), and fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (92.7) and rushing yards allowed per play (3.72). Even their 10th overall ranking on 3rd down conversions (36.46%) is respectable as well. Throw in on top of it that they have allowed a league low 29 plays of 20 yards or more and it really makes you wonder how this team is 7-7 and fighting for a playoff spot right now.
Outside of the aforementioned lack of turnovers and sacks, the Steelers offense and special team unit has made it very tough on the defense this season. The Steelers as a team have allowed 291 points this season with 114 of the points coming off of offensive turnovers, a punt block and a punt return for a touchdown.
The 27 giveaways this season is currently just 1 shy of the 28 that were given away last season by the team and that is nearly an average of two per game. Against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday the Steelers turned the ball over twice and it led to 10 points and the eventual overtime loss. The week before that it was two turnovers against the San Diego Chargers that led to 14 points and a loss.
While it still hard to praise a defense that has failed to help its own offense, it is important to keep in mind all of the injuries the unit has had to deal with this season. Starters James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark and Cortez Allen have all missed time this season with the first three still not being 100% since returning to the lineup. This is not to serve as an excuse mind you as I am just pointing out the facts. Sure, the offense has had its own share of injuries, but those injuries are not the reason for the fumbles and the interceptions.
The defensive sacks and the turnovers are unlikely to magically start improving in the last two regular season games so it will be up to the Steelers offense and special team units to play better defense instead by not turning over the ball and flipping the field more than they have been. This Steelers team is talented enough to not only win the remaining two games of the season, but also make a deep run in the playoffs. Turning the ball over twice a game on offense simply can\’t happen moving forward. If it continues to happen Sunday at Heinz Field against the Cincinnati Bengals the Steelers will not win the game and will not make the playoffs.