Remember when it took 18 quarters for Pittsburgh’s defense to finally force a turnover during the 2013 regular season? Remember when the defense was digging the team in early holes, losing on first and second downs, and essentially allowed opposing offenses to be in non-turnover-friendly situation? Remember when their ineptitude in that particular area made them a staple of my weekly drinking games?
I do, readers. Thankfully though, members of Pittsburgh’s defense have finally started pulling their weight in the turnovers department over the last month and a half.
Make no mistake, the Steelers have improved in many areas during their recent 5-2 stretch. The fact that they are +7 in turnover margin since their dreadful 0-4 start has been nothing short of a fantastic turn of events.
After being shutout in that statistical category for the first 18 quarters of the regular season, Pittsburgh’s defense has forced at least one turnover in six of their last seven games. In four of those seven games, the Steelers forced at least two or more and their total of 14 has been an enormous reason why the team is still in postseason contention.
While the defense has looked less than stellar at times during their last seven games (first half against Oakland, entirety of the New England game, second quarter against the Lions, etc.), their efforts in the takeaway department should not be ignored.
With a consistent pass-rush from Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, and the rest of the front-seven despite the losses of LaMarr Woodley and Brett Keisel, a slowly improving run defense, and forcing opposing offenses into turnover-prone situations, the Steelers defense has been nothing short of opportunistic during their 5-2 comeback.
From the timely red zone picks by Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons in New York, to the three turnovers which kept them somehow alive in Oakland, to the forced fumble by Troy Polamalu in New England that allowed the team to tie the game at 24-24 in the third quarter, to the game-icing pick by Clark against the Bills the following week, to Will Allen’s key takeaways and Cameron Heyward’s forced fumble on the fake field goal versus the Lions, to William Gay and Polamalu going turnover crazy for four takeaways yesterday, the Steelers’ defense have definitely done their fair share to help their offense.
With five regular season games left, the Steelers are still in control their own postseason destiny. If they win-out or manage to go 5-1, they should have a great shot of potentially winning their division or locking up the sixth and final postseason spot in the AFC.
Having a franchise quarterback for their potential postseason run is a definite plus for the Steelers. Yet the potential to provide Ben Roethlisberger with extra possessions with turnovers caused by the defense can only make Pittsburgh a more dangerous team to face down the stretch.
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