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Steelers News: Big plays and winning the turnover battle the key for the Steelers’ second half

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The Pittsburgh Steelers begin the season’s second half on Sunday and Mike Tomlin wants two things from the team: Big offensive plays and winning the turnover battle.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a fun fact for you. Did you realize the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team who would be in the postseason, if it started today, with a negative turnover ratio. Yes, the Steelers are -1 in this area and it’s a main focus for Mike Tomlin and his group as they start the second half of the season this Sunday when they travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to play the Indianapolis Colts.

When Mike Tomlin addressed the media on Tuesday for his usual weekly press conference, he mentioned the turnover ratio as a key focus for the Steelers moving forward, but he also mentioned the lack of big, or “splash”, plays on offense.

Throughout the first half of the season, the Steelers have been close, but have yet to connect on many plays which could truly have turned the tide in Pittsburgh’s favor.

These two goals are easier said than done but, if the Steelers can achieve those two aspects of the game, they’ll be a really tough team to beat down the stretch.

Time to check on the news surrounding the Black-and-gold outside the walls of BTSC:

Mike Tomlin wants more splash and more forced turnovers, too.

Outlining his goals for the second half of the Steelers' season on Tuesday, Tomlin pinpointed two areas where he would like to see improvement: turnover margin and big plays.

At the midpoint of the season, the Steelers are minus-1 in turnover differential. They have created 11 turnovers (seven interceptions, four fumble recoveries) and committed 12 (nine interceptions, three lost fumbles).

“Minus-1 doesn't usually go along with 6-2,” Tomlin said.

Despite having the best record in the AFC, the Steelers are tied for 18th in turnover differential. The NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles (8-1), for instance, are plus-6. The New England Patriots, also with a 6-2 record, are plus-4.

“One of those games really skews (our) number,” Tomlin said, referring to the five interceptions thrown by Ben Roethlisberger in the loss to Jacksonville. “Nonetheless, to be minus-1 at the turn is an area we would like to be better at.

“We need to take care of the ball better. We need to get the ball more. ... Usually, teams on the rise in the second half of the year do a great job of taking care of the ball and do an increasingly better job of getting the ball, and that needs to be us.”

Yield for JuJu.

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie phenom wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster tweeted Tuesday morning that he now has a driver's license.

"Your boy finally did it...just got my license! #ItsLit!," Smith-Schuster wrote in the 10:56 a.m. tweet.

This breaking news comes 15 days before Smith-Schuster's 21st birthday.

He posted a photo of himself and three other people holding a Terrible Towel in front of a white Hyundai Elantra from Rogers Driving School in Ross.

Tim Rogers, owner of the driving school, said Smith-Schuster was jovial and happy to take photos with the staff. He said Smith-Schuster took the test at 9:30 a.m. at Rogers, which is a certified third-party tester for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

A crew for NFL Films captured the achievement, Rogers said, adding Smith-Schuster perfectly executed a parallel parking maneuver.

"He was a natural and had a perfect score," Rogers said. "We took him out on McKnight Road, and joked around that if you can drive there you can drive anywhere."

The Steelers have no need to look over their shoulders if they wish to take the direct route to Minnesota, site of the Super Bowl in February.

Entering the second half of the season, winning the division shouldn't present much of a road block.The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are so far behind the Steelers they could get lapped before the holidays arrive.

Earning a first-round bye or getting the top seed in the conference shouldn't require any rubber necking, either. At 6-2, the Steelers hold the top spot and play the only other 6-2 team, New England, at Heinz Field in December. The Steelers already have beaten AFC West-leading Kansas City and are a game ahead of AFC South co-leaders Tennessee and Jacksonville.

The stated goal that began in spring workouts was for the Steelers to have the road to the Super Bowl go through Heinz Field. Halfway through the season, the Steelers remain in the proverbial driver's seat, which is just fine with coach Mike Tomlin.

“I've always felt like I've been in the driver's seat,” Tomlin said with a laugh Tuesday while addressing the media at his weekly news conference. “That's just my mentality, even when I'm in the back seat.”

It's been a while since the Steelers sat up front, even in the passenger's seat, at this juncture of the season.

Last year, the Steelers were 4-4 at the midpoint. They would lose another game, running their streak to four in a row, before reeling off seven consecutive wins en route to the division title and 11-5 record.

In 2015, the Steelers needed a 6-2 second-half record to finish 10-6 and get a wild-card berth. In 2014, they also went 6-4 to edge Cincinnati and Baltimore for the division title with an 11-5 mark.

Even in 2011, the last time the Steelers started 6-2, they went on the road in the wild-card round after finishing second in the AFC North despite a 12-4 record.