One of the biggest problems the Pittsburgh Steelers faced last year was simply not being greedy enough, being more likely to give up a big splash play rather than take one for themselves. In order to change their fortunes in this upcoming season, the Steelers are going to have to be quite a bit more selfish.
Especially in the beginning of the 2013 season, the Steelers found themselves being quite generous when it came to handing the ball over, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger struggling to find a sense of rhythm behind a shaky offensive line, and perhaps still recovering from a shoulder injury from the previous year.
Even in the opener, the Steelers had more explosive plays, two to one, but they also lost the turnover battle by two, and lost the game by a touchdown. They also recorded no sacks, while allowing Roethlisberger to be sacked five times.
In Week Two, they tied the Bengals with three explosive plays each, but, again, lost the turnover battle by two, and the game by 10. They also again failed to record a sack, while relinquishing two of their own.
Week Three was a highly TOXic spectacle, as the Steelers lost three fumbles and two interceptions while gaining no free possessions of their own for the third straight week, this despite a significant edge in explosive plays.
Those explosive plays, however, largely came as a result of the deficit that they found themselves in due to the turnovers as they attempted to rally back. Believe it or not, the Steelers’ 11 explosive plays versus the two from the Bears actually saw them win the TOX battle for that game by a healthy margin. But when you give up two touchdowns on turnovers, it all goes out the window.
Week Four was yet another TOX loss, as the Steelers gave up another fumble and interception while getting none back, and tying in the explosive play category. The four-to-one sack differential was also a big factor.
In all, the Steelers fell into a massive hole when it came to turnover differential. They didn’t record a single turnover in September, while they gave up 11 on offense. Roethlisberger alone threw five interceptions and lost four fumbles during that time while being sacked 15 times.
The good news is that the Steelers slowly turned it around as the season progressed. They recorded 20 takeaways in the last 12 games and ultimately cut the turnover differential to just -4, which is a long way from where they were after the 0-4 start.
When it comes to explosive plays, they actually came up ahead by 15 by the end of the year, and ultimately won the TOX stat for the year by a surplus of 11, yet it only translated into an 8-8 record.
If you’ll remember, Dave Bryan has previously talked about the ‘double explosive’ plays, which are plays that go for at least 40 yards, and the Steelers found themselves particularly susceptible to these last year. That’s one part of the answer behind winning the TOX margin (and in fact finishing with one of the higher margins in the league), but still coming out even in the end.
There’s also the ugly fact of how exactly those TOX stats break down by game. In all, the Steelers were 5-2 when winning the TOX margin, the losses coming in Week Three to the Chicago Bears, as previously discussed, and to the Oakland Raiders, which began with a 93-yard quarterback scramble.
The Steelers only lost the TOX margin three times, and were 1-2 in those games, but they also went a dismal 2-4 in games in which the margin was 0. It’s worth noting that they lost the turnover battle in two of those games and came out tied in the other two.
In, fact, the only time they won the turnover battle and lost the game was against the Raiders, a game in which the Steelers failed to reach the end zone until the fourth quarter.