Steelers on record pace for turnovers

October 7, 2013
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is looking for his defense to create more turnovers Sunday against the Jets. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Refreshed after four days off during their bye week, the Steelers returned to practice Monday looking for ways to pull out of their 0-4 start.

Turning around a turnover ratio that has them at minus-11 would be a nice start.

With 11 turnovers and no forced turnovers in their first four games, the Steelers are on a record pace.

The 1948 Chicago Rockets and 1965 Steelers each committed 30 more turnovers than they forced, setting the record for futility in that dubious statistic.

The 2006 Washington Redskins are the standard when it comes to fewest takeaways with 12.

The Steelers are on pace to not just break, but shatter both marks.

“We can definitely play better, no doubt about it,” said linebacker Lawrence Timmons. “That’s not the bar we set for ourselves. We’re just trying to get our feet under ourselves and get better coming out of this bye week. We want to come back and work in a positive manner.”

The Steelers can control the offensive turnovers by taking better care of the football. But with defensive turnovers, often times, there’s as much luck involved as anything.

For example, in Pittsburgh’s latest loss, a 34-27 defeat at the hands of Minnesota in London, linebacker LaMarr Woodley sacked quarterback Matt Cassell from behind, stripping the football loose.

The ball bounced forward where linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Troy Polamalu attempted to fall on it. Instead, it squirted free, and wide receiver Jerome Simpson fell on it. The result was not only a missed opportunity for the Steelers, but a first down for the Vikings.

“That’s crazy, right?” asked cornerback Ike Taylor. “It went through two of our people. The third bounce, it went right to the receiver. It’s coming though. We’re going to be straight.”

It can’t happen soon enough. Even in 2011, when the Steelers forced just 15 turnovers, they never went four games without forcing a turnover.

“They’re going to come,” said Taylor, who missed two opportunities for interceptions against the Vikings. “We’ve got to keep fighting. They’re coming.”

Perhaps they’ll come this week.

Sunday’s opponent, the New York Jets, is one of just two teams with more turnovers than the Steelers this season. The Jets had turned the ball over 12 times heading into Monday night’s game at Atlanta, while the Giants have turned it over an astounding 20 times during an 0-5 start.

Regardless, the Steelers know they have to do a better job of taking care of the football.

“We’ve got to be smart and protect the ball,” said wide receiver Antonio Brown. “Protecting the ball has to be a point of emphasis. We’ve got 11 turnovers. We’ve got to turn it around.”

If the Steelers can find a way to cut their turnovers down, even if the defense continues to fails to produce any turnovers, the results could be different.

The last team to start a season 0-4 and make the playoffs, the 1992 San Diego Chargers, also turned the ball over 11 times in its first four games. But in their final 12 games, the Chargers had 23 turnovers and forced 30, winning 11 of those 12 games.

“If those turnovers aren’t involved, we’re possibly in a different position,” Brown said. “But we’re not here to dwell on it. We are where we are.”

Odds and end zones

The Steelers are off today and return to practice Wednesday. … Guard Ramon Foster, who suffered a pectoral strain in the loss to the Vikings, returned to practice Monday on a limited basis and expects to play against the Jets.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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