2014 Steelers season scenarios: Steelers rebound and finish season +10 in turnover differential

Justin K. Aller

The Pittsburgh Steelers were among the bottom feeders of the NFL in terms of turnover ratio in 2013. Why this trend will sway drastically in the Steelers' favor in 2014.

Scenario: The Steelers finish the 2014 season +10 in the turnover differential category.

Why it will happen: This scenario is two fold as it relies on the offense to not turn the ball over, and the defense to take the ball away. As Neal wrote yesterday, the Steelers defense should be markedly better in the turnover category in 2014 for one main reason - speed. The Steelers improved their team speed across the board, and although inexperience runs throughout the defensive unit, the speed they possess should be more than enough to make up for their potential mistakes.

Ryan Shazier roaming the middle with Lawrence Timmons will add dimension that the Steelers lacked in 2013. With the interior of the linebacking corps locked down, this will allow Troy Polamalu and newly acquired Mike Mitchell to play their usual positions at safety and take the ball away. Mitchell in particular is somewhat of a ball hawk as he produced four interceptions for Carolina in 2013, while the Steelers entire defense only produced 10 as a unit.

The offense should be better in terms of turnovers as the unit as a whole has majority of it's starters returning. Continuity along the line will improve the calls being made, and the overall communication up front. If Roethlisberger has the time, he will make the throws. That isn't to say that Roethlisberger won't throw any picks, we all know that is inevitable, but his INT numbers should be in the single digits for the season. Throw in the fact that Le'Veon Bell is not a known fumbler, and all of this would be a good step to the team improving on the turnover differential statistic.

Why it won't happen: The Steelers have historically been the team that drops the crucial interception when it matters, and those are takeaways that could help win games. Last season there were dropped interceptions, caused fumbles that seemed to bounce back to the offensive team and an overall lack of play making that kept the turnover numbers so low.

There have been improvements, but some of those improvements are relying on young players without experience to know every possible scenario within Dick LeBeau's exotic 3-4 scheme. The inexperience and lack of timely play making could haunt this team again, and keep their turnover numbers down.

On offense, you never know if one of your running backs will begin to cough the football up. Fumbling is like a disease, and once you have a severe case of it, it is difficult to get rid of. Roethlisberger protected the ball well in the second half of last season, but if he is feeling the weight of the team on his shoulders, and especially if the offensive line isn't holding up, he will try to fit passes into small windows to make plays. That can lead to costly picks and will hurt the team's ability to stay above the Mendoza line in the turnover ratio category.

Keys: Turnovers typically come down to the players that see touches early and often. On offense, the pressure will be for Roethlisberger to make smart decisions with the football and taking his "medicine" at times and throwing the ball away. Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount aren't known fumblers, but that trend will have to stay true for this team to stay away from the turnover bug.

Defensively, it's about making plays when they are presented to them. Steelers fans can recount numerous passes that hit Ike Taylor square in the hands only for the ball to fall to the ground incomplete. Those plays are the ones that need to be made for this team to reverse their -4 turnover ratio in 2013, to a +10 in 2014.

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