How The Steelers Will Improve In The Turnover Department In 2013

By Jeremy Hritz

On July 3rd, ESPN had an article titled “Turnovers were a team problem for Steelers” in which the author made a quick analysis of the Steelers turnover struggles from last season.

The defense took the ball away 20 times, which was the eighth fewest in the NFL. Turnovers, though, was as much of a problem on offense as on defense and ultimately kept the Steelers out of the playoffs last season. When the Steelers jumped out to a 6-3 start, they turned the ball over nine times. During a 2-5 finish, Pittsburgh gave up the ball 21 times.

This has been a topic that has been discussed in depth this offseason, but it is a central one that must be addressed if the Steelers are to resurrect the habit of winning. The defense has struggled the past two seasons to create turnovers, which in turn impacted the number of scoring opportunities. Combine that with an offense that was careless with the football, and it is surprising that the outcome was only 8-8.

Can the Steelers improve in the turnover department next season? They can, but improvement will be dependent on how certain players and units perform.

On defense, interceptions and fumbles will start with the pressure that the outside linebackers can generate on the quarterback. While LaMarr Woodley struggled in 2012, he has a track record of being able to hurry the quarterback, and if he is healthy and in shape, he can be expected to return to form. Opposite Woodley is the biggest question mark, whether it is Jason Worilds or Jarvis Jones. While we have seen some flashes from Worilds in regular season action, it is unclear how Jones will translate to the professional game. Even if Jones does not start, he may get some snaps on third downs as an extra rusher. If the outside linebackers prove themselves to be a force to be accounted for, it will create chaos in the backfield, resulting in forced throws and shaky exchanges, which will boost their overall turnover count.

In the secondary, Ike Taylor hasn’t shown anything over his career to make anyone believe that his interception total will be increasing anytime soon. In fact, in an interview this offseason, he acknowledged that picks are just not a part of his game. If the pass rush improves, the secondary will have several opportunities to make interceptions, and the most exciting story to be told in the secondary is about the type of impact Cortez Allen will have. Allen enjoyed a turnover surge at the end of last season, and the hope is that he can produce in a similar fashion throughout 2013. If Allen demonstrates that he has exceptional ball skills, he could be the playmaker the Steelers have been looking for at the cornerback position. Throw in a healthy Troy Polamalu, and the secondary could be just as good in the turnover department as they are in overall pass defense.

On offense, comfort and familiarity with Todd Haley’s system should help to eliminate some of the turnover issues from last season. The growing pains from the confusion from the Rosetta Stone and its difficult terminology should pay off this year as players can focus on their execution of their assignment instead of worrying about what their assignment actually is from play to play. The result should be an offense that operates smoothly and that has better ball security.

  • steeltown

    This topic has been brought up numerous times by a few different players this offseason..theyre really pressing and preaching ball security in camp this year on Offense.. and on Defense, well as mentioned increased pass rush is key

  • VaDave

    Better OL Play, more defensive pressure, better turnover ratio = a more successful season. Yep, that’s been the common theme all offseason.

  • Matt Searls

    just in case you’re missing football as much as i am, nflgamerewind has the steelers vs cowboys game on there for free. sadly ive watched it twice in the past 2 days..

  • Randy Neff

    The biggest thing the Steelers could do to improve the turnover differentials that is not to put the ball on the ground. 33, that is the amount of time the Steelers fumbled last year, second most in the league. There is the element of luck involved in getting turnovers. Fumble recoveries is especially true of this. The Redskins fumble 26 times last year, yet only lost 6 of them. 22 teams lost more fumbles than that, while putting it on the ground equal or in some cases a lot less. The Redskins finished a plus 17.

    Only one team since free agency started in 1994 has gone -10 or worse in turnovers three years in a row. The Steelers and Eagles are both sitting at two in a row. Most teams, even really bad teams, don’t usually go two years in a row. I fully expect that number to tilt on the positive side this year.

    Go Steelers !

  • dgh57

    How about being sandwich tackled between Vince Williams & Shamarko Thomas?!!! That’s sure to jar a few footballs loose!! LOL

    One way other than a better pass rush to increase TOs(maybe not this year but in the years ahead) is to become more physical on defense. I think that was part of the game plan going into this past draft, thus the drafting of V. Williams & S. Thomas.

  • SteelSpine

    Agreed with you emphasis on our offensive side. Because bottom line being our defense tops in NFL we wanna improve our D but it’s nitpicking. Our offensive miscues indicate that even if our D woulda got more turnovers for our offense, our offense woulda turned it over more times.

  • cencalsteeler

    Pressure the quarterback, and the takeaways will follow. If Woodley, Worilds and/or Jones can get the qb pocket to collapse, McLendon, Keisel and Hood’s sack numbers should increase. Sacks breed fumbles and qb pressure breeds interceptions.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    The Steelers defensive philosophy on turnovers has always been the same: 1) If you pressure or hurry the opposing quarterback, he’ll start making throws he doesn’t want to make…and eventually turn the ball over. 2) If you actually get to the opposing quarterback and start hitting him, he’ll become increasingly more uncomfortable (even when you’re NOT in his face)…and he’ll turn the ball over.

    Turnovers START with defensive pressure. Period.

  • Randy Neff

    Don’t want to overlook takeaways, but unless Allen and Troy have big years with interceptions, I don’t see that being easier than just better ball security from the offense.

  • charles

    Goodell put a serious crimp in our physicality.

  • Steves

    Today I was watching SB XIX between Miami and San Fran who sacked Marino 4 times that day and intercepted him twice. Miami’s running game was non-existent with 25 yards on 9 attemps, so San Fran knew what was coming and tee’d off. QB pressure is the way to win after stopping the run.

  • Superdriller316

    That is so true, but we need a secondary who can catch the ball. Ike doesn’t have good hands, but has been working hard to turn that around. Troy and Cortez have about the best hands we have. Ryan has pulled a few down too.

    I think the corners need to start playing the ball and not the WR. Hopefully Lake and Woodson can hammer that home this year.

  • Sven_Hunkstrom

    Statistical analysis is fairly convincing that defensive turnover ability is not predictive from one year to the next; it’s not a “thing”. Ability to recover fumbles is entirely random.

    I’m disheartened by the organization’s apparent diagnosis of last year’s biggest problem being not winning close games. That, too, is effectively not a repeatable skill. For the most part, the best teams are the best because they don’t play many close games in the first place.