Statistics are for liars, except for when it comes to turnovers

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers continued a theme, Sunday night, of giving the football away on offense and failing to take it away on defense. It might be annoying to read about all the time, but if there was ever a perfect example of just how vital turnovers are to a football game, a person needs only to watch a replay of the Bears 40-23 beat-down of Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.

The late, great Deacon Jones once described a sack as taking an entire team's offense, putting it in a bag and beating on the bag with a baseball bat.

After the Steelers 40-23 loss to Chicago Sunday night at Heinz Field that dropped them to 0-3 to start the 2013 season, if you replace "sack" with "turnovers," that would sum up events quite nicely.

The graphic on NBC, late in the game, said it all: "Steelers points: 23. Bears points off of Steelers turnovers: 23."

There's a lot of hyperbole when it comes to sports talk, but when people say "Turnovers are the most important statistic in football," they're not lying.

It's a bit easier to ignore the turnover situation and just concentrate on other stats when your team is 12-4 and playoff bound, but when your team is 2-8 over a 10 game span, turnovers are hard to ignore.

Sunday night's five turnovers by Pittsburgh's offense means the unit has given the football away 67 times since Week 1 of the 2011 season. When you turn the football over that many times, it's virtually impossible to win because you're putting the entire offense, defense, the coaching staff and even the fans in a bag, tying it shut tight, and just hoping the other team only has a wiffle bat to beat on said bag.

Speaking of which.....

Turnovers aren't just a problem for the Steelers on offense. They're a problem for the defense, as well. For all the talk of Pittsburgh's defense being stout, efficient and ranked No. 1 the past two years, if it was a baseball bat, the Steelers defense would be of the wiffle variety.

Sunday night's game continued a trend that's been troubling Dick Lebeau's unit for over two seasons. Yes, it gets talked about by more than one person, but that's because, again, it's simply hard to ignore. And the reason turnovers are hard to ignore is because they're downright vital to an NFL season.

The statistics prove it every year.

You want to know where the good teams are? Look up the giveaway/takeaway statistic. Chances are, most of the good teams will have healthy numbers in that category.

Sunday night, after the Steelers turned a 21 point first half deficit into a four point fourth quarter deficit, a defense that had been pretty darn dominant from the time Matt Forte rattled off a 55 yard run in the first quarter, had a chance to stop Jay Cutler and the Bears one last time in the fourth quarter and give the football back to its offense with that four point deficit still the same.

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to simply shut a reasonably talented offense down for long stretches without taking the football away, and this proved to be the case, when Cutler led his offense on a crucial fourth quarter drive that resulted in a 17 yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett that put the game away with just under six minutes remaining.

The Bears defense, on the other hand, the one that gave up 406 yards to Ben Roethlisberger and had a whale of a time stopping Antonio Brown, who caught 196 of Roethlisberger's yards--including two touchdowns--gave the perfect demonstration of a bend-but-don't break defense.

And it's much easier to bend when you have a Louisville Slugger and are able to take the football away almost three times a game. Chicago's defense has 53 takeaways over the last 19 games, compared to the Steelers defense, which has 20 in that same span.

The Bears defense had five takeaways, compared to Pittsburgh's zero, Sunday evening.

Chicago's defense not only took the football away from the Steelers five times, Sunday night, it took the football into the end zone twice, matching, in one game, the amount of times Pittsburgh's defense has scored since January of 2011.

In other words, if the Steelers and Bears were fighting with those metaphorical bats, the Steelers would have been smacking the Bears all night long and racking up points with their wiffle bat, while the Bears would have been just waiting for the opening to knock Pittsburgh out with their Louisville Slugger made of solid oak.

Who do you think wins that battle? Sooner or later, there will be an opening for the team with the Louisville Slugger.

Statistics are for liars.......except when it comes to turnovers.

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