While some might sensibly suggest the Pittsburgh Steelers habit of giving the ball away on offense is their most significant issue this season when it comes to turnovers, there can be no dispute that a lack of takeaways continues to be a problem for this team.
As focused on defensive turnovers as Mike Tomlin seems to be as of late, the reality is that Pittsburgh has struggled to create takeaways with any sense of regularity since their last Super Bowl appearance. That 2010 version of the Steelers was second in the league with 35 takeaways, but they have only broken the top 10 once since then. With just 12 takeaways on the season to date, Pittsburgh currently ranks 23rd in the league and is on track for their lowest total since 2013.
Despite being part of a vaunted Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense renowned for their ability to create turnovers, it would be fair to say that takeaways have not exactly been the hallmark of Tomlin’s reign with the Steelers. A lack of turnovers has been a topic of conversation in the media on repeated occasions over the years, yet little appears to have been done to address the situation.
When speaking to reporters earlier in the week, Tomlin again stressed the problem was one the coaching staff was working on, but any hopes of a quick fix appear overly optimistic.
While it is right to assume that pressure on the quarterback should lead to more interceptions, it is worth noting that Pittsburgh managed just 16 picks in 2017, a year in which they set a new team sack record. Once again, no defender intercepted more than three passes last season and this remains a target no player has beaten since Troy Polamalu recorded seven in 2010.
For a defense that once had names like Mel Blount, Rod Woodson and Polamalu patrolling the secondary, there can be little question that the current crop of players lacks an obvious ballhawk among them. Beyond his rookie year when he finished with six interceptions, Joe Haden has never had more than four picks in a single season, a number that is still one higher than the career best of anyone else on the Steelers’ roster.
With the exception of Morgan Burnett, Tyler Matakevich and perhaps Sean Davis, none of the names on defense really showed much indication they were playmakers at college either. A fact that holds true for most of the defensive linemen and linebackers when it comes to producing fumbles.
Unfortunately, it may be too late to fix the Steelers turnover issues in 2018 and Pittsburgh might want to pay more attention to the free agents and draft prospects available in 2019 who have shown signs of this talent the defense lacks. Tomlin may believe it is a skill that can be taught, but it would appear to be a lesson his team is not learning. That being said, some might fairly question if it is the way the message is being delivered or the defense being run that is really the problem.