Steelers defense making history: worst ever at Intercerceptions
Steelers defense no longer a havoc-wreaking, turnover machine
December 14, 2012
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Their game against San Diego in Heinz Field last Sunday was all too typical for the Steelers and not just because another team with a losing record upset them. They forced no turnovers and had one sack for no loss in yardage.
The defense that once lived by the fierceness with which it savaged quarterbacks and created turnovers and other havoc has turned into a small-play defense. It leads the league in fewest yards allowed but ranks in a tie for next to last with just seven interceptions and is 20th in sacks.
The Steelers defense has played so softly, the NFL doesn't even fine them anymore.
"Last year and this year," safety Ryan Clark rightly pointed out. "We used to excel at that."
The Steelers defense forced its fewest turnovers in its modern history, at least back to the 1970 merger, when it came up with 15 last season -- four fumble recoveries, 11 interceptions. Those interceptions tied for the third fewest in franchise history. They can lay claim to another No. 1 by the end of the season, setting a new record for a franchise low.
The Steelers swiped nine passes in the 11-game 1940 season that stands as their low-water mark, according to research by Steelers Digest. Unless they come up with two more over the next three games -- a big order for them the past two seasons -- they will go down in history as the worst team in the 80 years of the franchise at picking off passes.
They're not doing much better recovering fumbles. They have five, one on a muffed punt, giving them just 12 forced turnovers. They've lost three games by three points and another by six, and the reason could be they also have lost their once innate ability to turn the ball over to their offense.
The Steelers defense also is on pace to dip below its sack total of 35 last season, its lowest in 21 years. They have 26 sacks or two per game.
"I guess they kind of go hand in hand," Clark said. "When you get pressure, you force bad throws and make turnovers; when you cover well, you force sacks. So, those things work together.
"We're failing on both ends right now."
Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley reasons that quarterbacks are throwing the ball more quickly to avoid the Steelers pass rush.
"Teams are doing stuff differently against us. Teams are doing a lot of 3-step and get rid of the ball when they play against us. They haven't been holding the ball that long. That's what most teams are doing against us this year.
"We're just not getting any turnovers because they're getting rid of the ball."
Clark believes injuries, like those to Woodley, have taken a collective toll on the defense and its ability to force turnovers.
Woodley will return Sunday after missing the past two games with an ankle sprain and one earlier in the season.
Fellow outside linebacker James Harrison missed the first three games with a knee injury, and it took him longer to return to form. Safety Troy Polamalu has missed nine games.
Those are their three best playmakers when they're in full health. Harrison's strip-sack of quarterback Joe Flacco that helped deliver a win in Baltimore Dec. 2 was typical for him, but rare this season and last.
"You miss certain players that you have in place to do that," said Clark. "There's also the chemistry that's built when those guys are on the field together. We don't have it right now."
I'm sure other teams are getting a few INT's off of 3 step drops...
Maybe if Clark stopped dipping his head and played the ball he would have a few INT's this year.
We need some playmakers to create turnovers--doesn't have to be interceptions, fumbles are OK, too...
And we need some defensive plans that help bring pressure.
Hall of Famer
To make it worse....teams are passing WAY more then they used to so to have the least amount of interceptions ever is even more chilling.
Teams pass more, especially on first down, yet we take pride in being tough against the run. Just seems like we have the importance of things a$$ backwards and it shows how stats are BS. The only thing our useless #1 rating does is give us the false belief that will perpetuate a defense that has lost its ability to get to the QB and get sacks and make plays on the balls in the air to get INTs.
Originally Posted by Mister Pittsburgh
I've been saying it on the board for three years that because no matter what the stats said anyone who wanted to see it could see we were becoming less and less of an impact defense capable of making game changing plays. After a multi-season steady trend of some of the worst sack and INT results in team history, it is time to admit that the guy running the "D" doesn't have anymore answers.
Last edited by Oviedo; 12-14-2012 at 03:09 PM.
Hall of Famer
What's really bad is that we run all this exotic crap but get zero pressure and zero turnovers....and to make it worse it takes our draft picks 3 years to really learn it and contribute. To me, an exotic defense like this should make average players better.....but some will come out and argue that Woodley, Harrison, Polumalu have been hurt and that is the reason for our lack of pressure and turnovers.....Seems like a bad argument to make.
I have to agree... I would much rather have a base D that gets young guys mixed in early on and lets them play football instead of learning rocket science. Sometimes our D reminds me of Pirate pitching coaches... they get a young talent, he shines the first year and then they tweak his pitching style and he ends up being a bum. Our problem is the young guys don't even get to show flashes in preseason. Half the time they are confused and no where near the defender.
Could the zone be the problem? Seems like a lot of our DB's are taught to ignore the ball and just run after the guy after he catches it... I know that isn't the plan but it sure seems like it's the result more times than not.
First game of the season vs Denver... the guy who had the pick 6, he had his hands on the ball all game long. Where is our player who can do that? Is Troy the only one who can see a ball and run up an catch it? Are we drafting DB's too late?
Fact is, the "exotic" stuff of D doesn't seem to be working. Our D was better when, without Troy, they simplified things and they played tighter. Now with TP back, they are doing the wacky things that no longer work in today's NFL. Seeing TP with his hair flying around used to be a good thing; now it appears as more of a distraction to solid D. But he could round back into shape making him effective with that style of play again, but as of up until now, it's been ineffective since he has come back.
It's not just we drafts DBs too late, but that could be part of it. I am just so sick of "the complex D" that doesn't seem to fool anyone anymore. I don't see QBs facing pressure, and we most certainly don't see DBs who can actually pick a ball off. Yea know, when the Model Ts came out, I am sure they were considered complex, new wave technology. But, some years down the road, they were accurately viewed as simple and low performance. Just because Dick's D was once considered so super awesome doesn't mean those same tricks are so leading edge anymore.
Originally Posted by feltdizz
Did you see Cinci last night? Do they not run a relatively simple D? They are 5th in sacks compared to our 18th. All they seem to do is find the best DL they can and send the front 4 and yet it is effective. We do all this hooey and end up with little pressure on the QB and no turnovers. Look at NE, blowing the league away with a plus 24 turnover margin, and yet, their D supposedly sucks compared to ours. Really? I don't buy some of these stats. And I am really sick of players needing so long to grasp the "complicated" D before they can play and chip in. I don't think teams can afford that mindset anymore. Some of the most effective Ds are fairly simple. And, having a dude totally just freelance however he sees fit (Troy) seems to hurt more than help at this stage. They better put their big boy pants on for this game. Romo will be testing our DBs deep early and often with Dez (and his busted finger and all) Whitten and Austin. If these guys play as bad as the did vs. SD, good night, Irene.