This is Part 3 of a multi-part series that is intended to identify what went wrong with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2009 season.
We’ve already discussed two of the reasons for the Steelers poor showing this season. Now it’s time to discuss the third reason.
Factor #3 – Failure to generate turnovers.
If there was one thing that characterized the Steelers team last year, it was their ability to generate turnovers at just the right moment.
If we think back to Super Bowl XLIII, one of the plays that probably stands out in everyone’s mind is James Harrison’s interception that he returned for a touchdown. It seemed like the Steelers defense was always able to come up with a key play when the team really needed it.
Do you remember Troy Polamalu’s interception against the Chargers? How about DeShea Townsend’s interception against the Cowboys?
And let’s not forget James Harrison’s many forced fumbles. In fact, Harrison invented a new statistic; the “strip sack”. Last year, it seemed like every time Harrison sacked the quarterback, he also stripped him of the ball. The two seemed to go hand-in-hand. Sack and strip the ball. Sack and strip the ball. It happened so often, I just started calling it a “strip sack”.
When you get down to it, football is a fairly simple sport, and some fairly simple principles apply. For example, having the ball more often than your opponent gives you more chances to score, and thus a better chance of winning the game. Therefore, turnovers can play a critical role in generating wins (or losses). Taking the ball away from your opponent can help you win, and turning the ball over to your opponent can help you lose.
Last year, the Steelers’ turnover ratio was +4. That means that they took the ball away from their opponent 4 more times than they lost the ball to opponents. That was 11th best in the NFL.
This season, their turnover ratio is -5. They have allowed opponents to take the ball away from them 5 more times than they’ve been able to take it from opponents. That’s not a good thing. The Steelers rank 25th in the NFL in this regard. There are only 32 teams in the NFL, so ranking 25th isn’t good.
The key reason for the Steelers’ drop in their ability to generate turnovers has been their lack of interceptions. Last year, the Steelers were ranked 6th in the NFL with 20 interceptions. This year they have only 8 interceptions, and are ranked near the bottom of the NFL. Only the Cleveland Browns have fewer interceptions than the Steelers.
With 3 games remaining, the Steelers are on a pace to finish the season with 9 interceptions. That’s less than half of last year’s total. Last year, they averaged 1.25 interceptions per game. This year they are averaging .62 interceptions per game.
Troy Polamalu is one of the Steelers’ most prolific interception generators. He leads the team this year with 3 interceptions (which is sad, since he’s missed most of the season). Troy also led the team in interceptions last year with 7. So his production is greatly missed.
But the biggest failure this season has come from the team’s cornerbacks. Ike Taylor, William Gay, Deshea Townsend, Joe Burnett, and Keenan Lewis have managed to generate a total of 0 interceptions this year. That’s right, ZERO. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. They are the only group of cornerbacks in the entire NFL without an interception.
Back-up linebacker Keyaron Fox has more interceptions than all of the Steelers cornerbacks combined. That’s pathetic!
We all remember watching Joe Burnett drop an interception late in the game last week that would have assured the Steelers of a victory. That has been the story of the Steelers’ 2009 season. The cornerbacks have dropped too many potential interceptions.
Today’s NFL has become a pass-happy league. Just look at the dominant teams this year. The Colts, Saints, Vikings, and Eagles are all passing teams. If you can’t stop passers in the NFL, you can’t win. And unfortunately, the Steelers cornerbacks can’t seem to stop anybody.
(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter by clicking the doohickies at the bottom of the right column of this page. Thanks.)