The Curious Case of the 2011 Steelers Turnover Situation, Part 3

I loved the latest addition to this series so much that I had to change the title. Don't be mad Mrs. Rollet, just wanted to make sure as many people as possible came across it. Good stuff as always from the site's resident matriarch. -Michael B. -

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Earlier in the season I ran across this quote in an article by John Dudley of the Erie Times-News:

 

Two statistics in particular illustrate why the Steelers have failed to dominate. Their margin of victory is only 2.8 points per game. In each of their past three Super Bowl seasons, they won by an average of at least 7.8 points per game.

And their defense, although top-ranked, hasn't made big plays. Through six weeks the Steelers rank dead last in the league in takeaway-giveaway ratio at minus-10. The offense has turned the ball over 12 times and the defense has forced only two turnovers, one interception and one fumble. They have ranked lower than 24th in turnover ratio only once in franchise history, when they finished 27th in 2006.

Last season the Steelers took the ball away 35 times, with 21 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles. I decided to find out how many points those turnovers had resulted in, and compare it to how many points they lost on offensive turnovers (18 total last year.) My hypothesis is that the "missing" 5 points per game so far this year can be attributed to the lack of points achieved via turnovers.

 

This post will compare Games 8 -10 of 2010 and 2011. There will be a final reckoning after the Steelers are finished for the year.

 

After Part 1 there were a couple of comments asking some additional questions about the data, and I added an addendum to the first post to address those. In the next post (Games 5 – 7) I included the point swing that takeaways or turnovers represent and whether it seems as if any resulting points can be credited to the defense (or be expected from the offense in the case of a turnover.) The latter was noted by giving the Probability Point for the field position they began at, giving the end result, and grading the offense or defense with a minus (below the line,) 0 (did their job, or not really their fault) or + (better than expected.) If this doesn't make sense, the rather long-winded explanation is in the addendum to the first post (link above.) This post also includes the additional information. 


 

Game 8 (2010) pitted the Steelers against the Bengals in Cincinnati...

 

The Steelers were on the board first with a Mendenhall TD two minutes into the game. The Steelers had deferred, but Emmanuel Sanders forced a fumble on the kick return which Jason Worilds scooped up, and the Steelers started their drive on the CIN 25. The Bengals had to punt after a short series, and William Gay blocked the punt, giving the Steelers the ball at the CIN 30. (Which doesn't count as a takeway, since it was the Steelers' ball anyhow, but did improve the field position considerably.) The Steelers converted that into a FG.

 

The Bengals were understandably getting annoyed about this, and forced a fumble out of Hines Ward which Carson Palmer converted to a TD a few plays later. This embarrassed the defense, who stepped up via a Lawrence Timmons INT a few minutes later. Hines Ward redeemed the fumble by reeling in a TD pass.

 

Early in the fourth quarter the Bengals were down 13 points, and decided they had better get serious. A pass intended for Heath Miller was intercepted, and an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty on Flozell Adams moved the ball to the PIT 36. Shortly thereafter Cedric Benson ran it into the end zone. After that the Steelers D held firm, and the Steelers won the game.

 

TA 1: CIN 25 (.7) + CIN 25 (3.5) = 4.2 Point Swing

    Probability Point: 3.5     Result: TD     Offense +

 

TA 2: PIT 48 (2) + PIT 48 (1.8) = 3.8 Point Swing'

    PP: 1.8     Result: TD     Offense +

 

TO 1: PIT 38 (1.2) + PIT 38 (2.7) = 3.9 Point Swing

    PP: 3.1     Result: TD     Defense -

 

TO 2: CIN 49 (2) + PIT 36 (2.9) = 4.9 Point Swing

    PP: 2.9     Result: TD     Defense -

 

  • Turnover differential for Game 8 in 2010: 0
  • Turnover point differential: 0
  • Final Score: Steelers 27 Bengals 21

 

 

Game 8 (2011) vs. the Patriots created a lot of angst among the fan base, but the end was very different than the past six contests with Tom Brady. And this, despite the fact that the 2011 takeaway drought continued. The sole turnover in the game was a NE INT of Ben six minutes into the 2nd quarter. It resulted in the very first points that New England put on the board.

 

TO 1: PIT 25 (.6) + PIT 8 (4.2) = 4.8 PS

    PP: 4.2     Result: TD     Defense 0

 

  • Turnover differential for Game 8 in 2011: -1
  • Turnover point differential: -7
  • Final Score: Patriots 17 Steelers 25

 

 

Game 9 (2010) versus the Patriots was the nadir of the 2010 season. On a freezing cold Sunday night Steelers fans didn't have nearly enough to cheer about, unless they happened to enjoy watching the Patriots' suffocating offense combined with surprisingly good defense. As had happened so many times before in Steelers/Patriots contests, Tom Brady left the victor. There were no takeaways by the Steelers, and a sole INT by NE. That came partway into the 4th quarter, when the score was still a manageable 23-10. Unfortunately, the DB that grabbed it ran it in for a TD.

 

The game was possibly most notable for an H2H hit on Hines Ward early in the game, sending him off the field with a concussion. Although the reception, his first in the game, was initially ruled a catch, Bill Belichick challenged it, and the ruling was reversed, thus ending Ward's 186-game streak of consecutive games with at least one catch. Which is incredible when you think about it. That is almost 12 regular season's worth of games, and his streak was the third-longest in NFL history. In my opinion it was beyond cruel of Belichick to challenge that. Naturally, the DB was neither penalized nor fined, which didn't sit too well with Pittsburgh fans during "The Troubles." To add insult to injury, the DB that intercepted Roethlisberger and ran the ball in for a TD was the one that hit Hines Ward in the head.

 

TO 1: PIT 32 (2.9) + PIT 0 (6) = 8.9 PS

    PP: 6     Result: TD     Defense 0

 

  • Turnover differential for Game 9 in 2010: -1
  • Turnover point differential: -6
  • Final Score: Patriots 39 Steelers 26

 

 

Game 9 (2011) vs. the Ravens was a heart-breaker right at the end, but up until that point it was the usual hard-fought game between the two clubs. As with the rest of the game, they were evenly matched in most every way, with the Ravens tipping the scale just that little bit more. Mike Wallace lost a fumble that the Ravens recovered, and James Harrison returned the favor by forcing a fumble that William Gay recovered. The tip into the negative column came when Terrell Suggs picked off a Roethlisberger pass in the 3rd quarter. Had that drive not been so rudely interrupted, the outcome might well have been different.

 

TA 1: PIT 40 (2.6) + PI 42 (1.4) = 4 Point Swing

    Probability Point: 1.4     Result: TD      Offense +

 

TO 1: BAL 20 (3.8) + BAL 29 (1) = 4.8 Point Swing

    PP: 1     Result: TD      Defense -

 

TO 2: PIT 40 (1.3) + PIT 40 (2.6) = 3.9 Point Swing

    PP: 2.6      Result: end of game

 

  • Turnover differential for Game 9 in 2011: -1
  • Turnover point differential: 0
  • Final Score: Ravens 23 Steelers 20

 

 

Game 10 (2010) vs. the Raiders soothed the many fans that were fearful of seeing a re-enactment of the 2009 midseason meltdown. Two interceptions and a fumble recovery for the Steelers helped a good deal.

 

Ironically Oakland made their first and only points in the game at just over five minutes into the game, and Pittsburgh didn't even get on the board until over a minute into the 2nd quarter. But they scored steadily thereafter. Before the end of the 2nd quarter Ike Taylor forced a fumble that Lawrence Timmons retrieved, and the Steelers converted it into a TD a few plays later. Richard Seymour wasn't pleased about that, and decked Ben Roethlisberger, thus getting himself ejected from the game.

 

Things didn't improve for the Raiders after that. Partway into the 3rd quarter James Harrison dropped back into coverage and picked off a pass. The offense didn't manage to make anything of it, so when Troy Polamalu picked off Bruce Gradkowski at the PIT 8 he tacked on 38 yards for good measure. Two plays later Mike Wallace atoned for his dropped pass, which had ended the Steelers' previous series, and took an 8-yard dump-off pass another 44 yards for a TD.

 

The Raiders did recover a Mendenhall fumble late in the 4th quarter, but it was definitely too little too late, and the defense gave up a single first down before shutting down a 4th-and-3 conversion attempt. Although the game was basically over at that point, Ben put an exclamation point on it with a short TD pass to Isaac Redman.

 

 

TA 1: OAK 45 (1.6) + OAK 35 (2.9) = 4.5 Point Swing

    PP: 2.9     Result: TD      Offense +

 

TA 2: OAK 28 (.9) + OAK 28 (3.3) = 4.1 PS

    PP: 3.3     Result: Punt     Offense -

 

TA 3: PIT 8 (4.2) + PIT 46 (1.6) = 5.8 PS

    PP: 1.6     Result: TD     Offense +

 

TO 1: OAK 24 (3.5) + OAK 24 (.6) = 4.1 PS

    PP: .6     Result: Turnover on downs      Defense +

 

  • Turnover differential for Game 10 in 2010: +2
  • Turnover point differential: +14
  • Final Score: Raiders 3 Steelers 35

 

 

Game 10 (2011) at the Bengals was not only an important win, but contained two of the very rare sightings this season of the elusive Porcus Interceptus. The Bengals managed an interception of their own, but the William Gay interception put paid to their hopes of a comeback. No one fumbled the ball, shockingly, despite Ben being sacked five times and hit countless other times, and Heath being drilled after a catch that should have knocked the ball into the next county.

 

TA 1: PIT 33 (3.1) + PIT 33 (1.1) = 4.2 Point Swing

    Probability Point: = 1.1      Result: Punt      Offense 0

 

TA 2: PIT 19 (3.8) + PIT 31 (1) = 4.8 Point Swing

    PP = 1     Result: end of game

 

TO 1: PIT 41 (1.3) + PIT 41 (2.5) = 3.8 Point Swing

     PP = 2.5      Result: FG      Defense 0

 

  • Turnover differential for Game10 in 2011: +1
  • Turnover point differential: -3
  • Final Score: Bengals 20 Steelers 27

 

 

So how did my theory fare now that we've looked at ten games? The Steelers managed a net 5 additional points during the first four games of the season last year, although they were already +8 in turnover differential. In the next three games the net was an additional 5 points, for 10 total, and the TO differential was +10. By the end of Game 10 they had netted 14 additional points, giving them a total of 24 additional points, and the TA/TO differential was +11. Here's how it looks for both seasons:

 


Game 

'10 Result

Point

Differential

TO/TA

Differential

'11 Result

Point

Differential

TO/TA

Differential

1

W

+8

0

L

-28

-7

2

W

+25

+6

W

+24

0

3

W

+6

0

W

+3

-2

4

L

-3

+1

L

-7

-1

5

W

+18

+2

W

+21

-1

6

W

+1

0

W

+4

0

7

L

-10

0

W

+12

+1

8

W

+6

0

W

+8

-1

9

L

-13

-1

L

-3

-1

10

W

+32

+2

W

+7

+1

 

As we look at each season, for the most part games with a neutral or negative TO/TA differential resulted in either a win by less than 7 points or a loss. Conversely, naturally, games with a positive TO/TA differential resulted in a win by a touchdown or more.

 

Games 8 – 10 last season retained this pattern, with Games 8 and 9 having a negative TO/TA differential and Game 10 having a positive one. This season Games 9 and 10 followed the same pattern, with the loss to the Ravens having a negative TO/TA differential and the win against the Bengals having a positive one. The Patriots game, though, despite being a win by more than a TD, still had a negative TO/TA differential, making two exceptions out of ten games.

 

The turnovers generated by the defense during Games 8 - 10 in 2010 resulted in a total point swing of 22.4. The offense converted them to a stunning 35 points. However, the same offense gave up TOs resulting in a total point swing of 21.8, and the opposing teams garnered 21 points from them.

 

This season the takeaways for Games 8 - 10 showed a 13-point swing, resulting in 7 points. (One of the three turnovers ended the game, so this isn't as bad as it seems.) The turnovers created a point swing of 13.8, which the opposing offenses converted to 14 points.

 

The total point differential was much better last season during Games 8 - 10, with a net +8 last season and a -10 this season. This makes my theory look more plausible than it did at the end of the previous three games. It's probably going to turn out to be a total non-starter, but I'm still not ready to write it off until the end of the season. I'm hoping that not only will we have the same amount of data from the regular season, but that we will be able to directly compare each post-season game with last year, if you get my drift. To be continued...

 

 

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