Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp on July 25th, and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: The Pittsburgh Steelers defense will have 4 interceptions returned for a touchdown for the second straight year.
Why it will happen: The Steelers defense didn't exactly thrive off of interceptions in 2014, in fact, they only were able to have 11 interceptions in the regular season. However, when they got their hands on the football, they made the most of their opportunity with 4 interceptions returned for a touchdown. Three from cornerback William Gay and one from Brice McCain.
With the departure of McCain to the Miami Dolphins, many fans could be wondering if the secondary could see the same success as they did last season. What the team did is add ball skills to their roster throughout the offseason. Bringing in rookies Senquez Golson and Doran Grant at the cornerback position added 14 NCAA interceptions to their roster. Throw in the departure of Ike Taylor and the team's ball skills have improved heading into 2015.
The other main reason the Steelers could see 4 more interceptions returned for a touchdown is the preparation which put them into the situation to have those interceptions in 2014. Those pass plays were all plays where the defenders saw something they had studied, took a gamble and it paid off. The equation of preparation, improved ball skills and a knack for being in the right place at the right time the team could see this scenario come true in 2015.
Why it won't happen: The Steelers defense thrived on inadequate quarterbacks in 2014, and many of them resulted in those interceptions taking place. However, the Steelers defense isn't quite a finished product from the front seven to the secondary. When watching the video of the interceptions, a common denominator is the Steelers getting pressure on the quarterback, or the defensive back jumping a route. Either way, those two denominators might struggle in 2015.
The Steelers aren't built to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the quarterback, and although they might have more sacks than last year, they are not a team who will lead the league in sacks. The fact there are rookies, or extremely inexperienced players, filling out the secondary, them knowing all of their responsibilities to the point it pays dividends are extremely doubtful.
On top of those factors, the play of returning an interception for a touchdown is rare in the NFL. Relying on getting four of those plays in back-to-back seasons will be difficult for even the best defense in the league, let alone a middle-of-the-road unit like the Steelers.
Keys: The factors here will come down to the inexperienced players being on their studies and being able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. The veteran defensive back knows when to take chances, while the inexperienced player is much less likely to take a risk which could see him become exposed with a mistake.
Also, as the saying goes, "If they had great hands, they would play wide receiver" in terms of how some cornerbacks don't have the best ball skills. How many times have Steelers fans see easy passes go through the hands of defenders, when they could have easily walked into the endzone for a touchdown. If the defensive backs can get accustomed and comfortable to put themselves in position to take an interception back for a touchdown, this scenario could come true and could be a large part of the team's success in 2015.