Tag Archives: Turnovers
Defensive lineman Brett Keisel says turnovers the key to the Steelers ‘goal to get back and win our division”
The Pittsburgh Steelers are supposed to be in a rebuilding mold, but don’t tell that to defensive lineman Brett Keisel.
As the team goes through OTAs and mandatory minicamp this week, Keisel says the mindset of the Steelers isn’t one to be average.
He also feel the road to winning the division is the defense getting back to creating turnove...
Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers
You can put the blame wherever you want, but the bottom line in the NFL is your not going to win when you give the ball away eight times. The Steelers hung around all day with the Browns, but in the end, the giveaways were way too much, and the team fell to 6-5 in [...]...
Source: Steelers Gab
No team is the same from one year to the next, but one can learn about where a team is going by studying where it has been. We've watched each Steelers game last year play-by-play and pulled out a certain amount of trend-setting and trend-extending plays that earned the Steelers both a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff loss. We'll highlight what each of those plays meant from a bigger picture perspective on the season that was in 2011.
No win in 2011 - or in many other seasons, for that matter - was celebrated as a loss the way the Steelers' 23-20 (OT) win at Indianapolis was. Winning their second consecutive game after a brutal start at Baltimore was secondary to the pains in which it took to dispatch the hapless Colts, even if primetime road games are the toughest to win.
Of the Steelers' five total losses, two of them were road primetime games and one was a primetime home game. Perhaps that's why I'm now classically conditioned to feel ill at ease every time I hear the Football Night in America music.
This game more than any other signified the team's shift toward deep passing, and as I mentioned in the Week 2 version of this story, how mediocre pass protection hindered that goal.
Offensive Intentions Obvious From the Start
The Steelers' first 13 plays were scripted to set up the 14th. QB Ben Roethlisberger was 4-for-8 for 75 yards on his first eight throws, and RB Rashard Mendenhall had four yards on his first five carries. The Steelers led 3-0 when they trotted to the line on 2nd-and-5 from their 19-yard line. In double-tight, WR Mike Wallace and Hines Ward are split left, with Wallace flanking Ward's outside.
Roethlisberger sells the play fake, which doesn't fool second-year CB David Caldwell. He's simply overmatched by Wallace, who runs a deep post, and creates three yards of separation.
The protection is perfect, Roethlisberger has no time stepping into his throw and delivering a perfect strike to Wallace about 47 yards down the field. It hits him in stride, and Wallace races from Indianapolis' 32 yard line into the end zone. It's an 81-yard touchdown pass, and could be the finest play the Steelers had run in 2011.
Lemme highlight the key factor here; the protection was perfect. Amazing, considering the scheme had RG Doug Legursky pull right to sell the play fake, leaving DE Dwight Freeney on TE David Johnson in a 1-on-1 situation. Freeney busted in, but with a rare clean pocket, Roethlisberger was able to move a little and buy himself the time he needed to make the deep throw.
It would be the last time the Steelers' offensive line would get away with such a risk. It certainly wasn't for a lack of trying, however.
Jonathan Scott the Scapegoat
After the Wallace touchdown, Roethlisberger took seven-step drops on nearly every pass attempt he made for the rest of the game. He checked down often, with three of his 11 passes going for two yards or less.
The Steelers next four series went thusly: sack and fumble recovered by Indianapolis (led to a field goal, 10-3 Steelers), sack and fumble recovered by Indianapolis and returned for a touchdown (10-10), Roethlisberger deep interception (led to a field goal, 13-10 Indianapolis), Roethlisberger kneels out the half.
That's three turnovers leading to 13 Indianapolis points, and a kneel-down. Roethlisberger was 9-for-11 passing on the final four drives of the half, with two fumbles (losing both) and an interception.
Colts DE Robert Mathis had the first strip-sack, taking RT Marcus Gilbert around the pocket to knock the ball free outside the left hash. Gilbert ultimately takes the blame, although it speaks more to Mathis's motor, and Roethlisberger's lack of awareness. He pumped a pass, and after doing so, keeps the ball outside his body and looks behind to his left. Mathis is inside Roethlisberger's right (ball) side, and slaps it away.
Freeney's sack comes on 2nd-and-10 inside Indianapolis territory. The play appears to be a quick slant to Wallace, who's on the right side of the formation. Scott takes a quick drop and turns his body outward, largely suggesting the quarterback is not taking a deep drop. Gilbert maintains more discipline on the right side, but he didn't block for a deep drop, either.
Keeping Roethlisberger's drop short is probably a good idea, considering the heat the Colts edge rushers are bringing. Roethlisberger drops two quick steps, pumps a pass to Wallace (who's clearly expecting the ball), then drops a few more steps. Scott doesn't see this, and Freeney simply goes off Scott's outside shoulder (Scott is in no position to stop this), and Freeney tees off Roethlisberger, who was drawing his arm back to throw.
TE Heath Miller, on the left side, runs a four-yard pattern, and takes a blocking stance. Clearly, the play was meant to go right side short, but even with what appeared to be Roethlisberger ad-libbing the play, Scott's form is poor, and gives the edge to one of the best edge rushers the game has ever seen.
Scott deserves blame (holding and illegal formation penalties in this game as well), but the overarching point is the offense is simply not on the same page, and it nearly cost them the game.
Steelers OT Max Starks was signed not even two weeks after this game, and replaced Scott just a few days after joining the team.
Ike Taylor's over-aggressiveness
On a 3rd-and-4, Painter is looking to WR Pierre Garcon on his right side. Garcon runs a hitch-and-go, starting at the first down marker. Taylor bites on Garcon's movement badly, even without as much as a pump from Painter.
Taylor is an excellent cornerback with very good coverage skills. What makes Taylor good at what he does is his aggressiveness. As we saw in Week 3, and especially in the AFC Wild Card loss at Denver, Taylor's aggressiveness is also his worst enemy. It caused him to lose sight of Demaryius Thomas multiple times in regulation. Instead of defending the man, his eyes got wide at the thought of QB Tim Tebow lofting one of his patented ducks. Thomas slipped behind him for a few big gains during regulation.
Plain and simple, Painter completely blew the throw, and it should have been 20-13 Indianapolis at this point. Instead, the Colts punted back to the Steelers in a tie game.
Don't think for a second the Broncos didn't watch this game when making their game plan to face the Steelers in the playoffs.
Harrison and Woodley
Week 3 would be the last time Steelers OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley played together for a full game at 100 percent. And through the Colts' first drive of the second half, they had one QB pressure between them on 23 Kerry Collins pass attempts.
That would soon change against Indianapolis, but the lack of consistent pressure on the passer dogged the Steelers' defense all year. There were times Harrison took over the game (Week 9 vs. Baltimore) and there were times Woodley took over the game (Week 8 vs. New England), but it never clicked for both of them in the same game.
Harrison does what the Steelers' offense had failed to do since the first quarter. He made a play that resulted in a touchdown. Forcing a fumble off a sack of Painter, Polamalu returns it for a touchdown. It was a rare forced turnover for the Steelers, who only had 15 takeaways all year. This was a big one, giving the Steelers a lead they'd need at the end of the game.
The suddenly effective Curtis Painter drove the Colts down for a game-tying touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter, but the Steelers won it in OT, as Shaun Suisham hit the field goal he should have hit in regulation.
Problems with the kicking game continued most of the year, as Suisham had one of the lowest field goal percentages in football.
A win may be a win, but this game was wrought with mental and physical mistakes, setting up a showdown with emerging AFC power Houston the following week.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
I have tracked the TOX stat all season long as it relates to wins and losses every week in the NFL as I love the stat. Half of that stat revolves around explosive plays, plays of 20 yards or more, and the ability of teams in the NFL to not only create them on offense, but not allow them on defense.
Many have criticized the Steelers run defense all year long, especially how it relates to allowing explosive runs this year. The defense allowed just 1 run last year of 20 yards or more and this year they have allowed 7. That might seem like a big deal, but it really isn't when you factor in that Read more [...]
Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers
I wonder how much of our lack of turnovers is due to the changes in how Steelers players are hitting due to the current state of rule "enforcement"? [Does] less leading with the head mean fewer balls knocked loose and fewer frightened receivers/quarterbacks?
This comment was in response to Part 3 of my series about defensive turnovers. It seemed like a good thing to wonder. After all, Ryan Clark's hit a couple of weeks ago, which resulted in a personal foul penalty and a $ 40,000 fine, was used by Mike Tomlin to demonstrate the classic technique for dislodging a ball. If you are afraid to tackle in a way that is more likely to dislodge the ball, because it is also more likely to result in a penalty and/or a fine, then that would surely lead to fewer forced fumbles overall.
And naturally a reduction in fumbles also reduces the number that you have a chance at recovering. If you momentarily hesitate when you tackle the quarterback, so as to make sure that you don't tackle him in a way that attracts the attention of the refs or the league, that gives said quarterback just that extra split second to get the ball away or escape your intended ministrations. But do the numbers really bear this out?
I went looking for the data. What I found was a mare's nest. I gathered the information for sacks, interceptions, and forced fumbles (whether or not the forcing defense recovered them) for the games thus far this season for every team. I wanted to compare them to last year's figures, but I could only find totals for the full season in previous years. Since I only had 10 games to work with last week when I started on this post, I extrapolated the numbers by dividing by 10 and multiplying by 16 to get what I hoped was a reasonably accurate number. And what I found was striking—pretty much across the league the numbers of forced fumbles appear to be well below last season.
But I thought that perhaps I should check whether it was reasonable to assume that fumbles are forced in a fairly linear way. I picked 10 teams to get the actual numbers from the box scores for last season through ten games. And, at least last season, I discovered that in fact fumbles increased quite a bit over the remainder of the season. In other words, calculating the expected numbers after ten games for last season and comparing the actual numbers showed that in fact those teams actually gained only about 73% of the fumbles one would have expected, given the total at the end of the year. And I suppose it makes sense that fumbles will increase somewhat during cold-weather outdoor games.
So to check this I did the same thing for 2009, getting the actual figures for ten teams and comparing them to the season totals for those teams. I discovered that for whatever reason, they were on average lower than expected, but not nearly as much. In fact the figure was about 96% of the expected total—lower, but within normal statistical variation.
At this point I was thoroughly sick of poring over the NFL box scores, especially as I had incidentally discovered something really irritating. That is that the number of fumbles, sacks, and so on that appear in the box scores don't necessarily tally with the "official" NFL stats chart. Clearly some of the numbers are changed upon further review, and the new figure is entered into the stats site, but they don't update the box score as it stands at the end of the game. In some cases the divergence is fairly minor (although it does matter, given how small a data set one is dealing with in the first place,) In other cases it is quite major. Take this year's information for the Steelers, for example. By carefully totting up the box score I came up with a figure after Game 10 of 24 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. The NFL official figures showed the Steelers with 23 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles. ESPN's figures had even more variance, giving the Steelers 23 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 8 forced fumbles. The problem is that the NFL does not, as far as I could tell, give you week-by-week figures, so all I could do was take the figures from the box scores, compare them with the season cumulative figures, and try to reconcile them with the box scores when they differed.
Since I had all of these figures, but wasn't entirely sure what they meant, my husband suggested that I graph them and see if anything showed up that wasn't obvious just looking at the numbers. So I started with New Orleans, since that was the first team that showed up on the NFL Week 1 page. First I entered the 2010 regular season totals for sacks, interceptions, and forced fumbles. These show up, naturally, as a straight line, since it is plotting the average figure from 0 at the beginning of Game 1 to whatever the final number is. (I could, of course, do the whole "write down all of the numbers from the box scores thing" and get real numbers for each week, but I do have to eat and sleep, and don't have a research staff.) I then plotted the actual numbers (more or less, depending on which site you believe) for each game this season and had a look. I was very excited, because my theory is so far triumphantly confirmed:
As you can see, sacks and interceptions track the 2010 season's averages pretty consistently, but fumbles after the second week drop to well below last season's plot.
With great excitement I entered the figures for Green Bay. The figures didn't correlate quite as well as they did for the Saints, as you can see, but there is a small but noticeable reduction in fumbles after the first few weeks.
Then came Baltimore. And just as they dashed my hopes on that fateful day in September, their figures were not helpful, especially after Thanksgiving's 9-sack game:
I plotted four more teams—the Bengals, the Browns, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis. In two cases (Bengals and Browns) fumbles were substantially above last year's figures. Jacksonville's are well down, although they have climbed back towards last year's average in the past few weeks, and the Colts were way up, leveled out around Game 5, and are now below last season. All of which probably says that it is more about the team and how well it is playing this year than it is about the new rules, although there may still be some effect. However, I decided that I was unlikely to find out too much more than that by plotting the remaining teams, and therefore it wasn't really worth the time.
But I still had all this lovely data, and decided to just look at the Steelers and compare them to the teams for the past seven years. I split the graphs into sacks, interceptions, and forced fumbles. Here's what the interceptions graph looks like:
We knew things were bad, but this has been historically bad. If you look at the point for Game 10 you can see just how much worse it looked before last Sunday. But surely the other numbers look better. Here are forced fumbles:
Well, it is still historically low, but not enormously lower than the three low seasons from the previous six years, 2008, 2006, and 2009. How about sacks?
Well, that is the best news, in that it is tracking well with 2006 and 2007. Unfortunately, those are the worst two of the previous six seasons.
What does this all mean? If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that it means that the 2011 Steelers are doing it the hard way. It seems that everyone who discusses this Steelers team, from Mike Tomlin to the various commentators, expresses surprise that the Steelers are currently 8-3 with such a poor turnover differential. [When I wrote that, the Steelers were 7-3 and the TO differential was a truly appalling -10, in case you had happily managed to forget. After last Sunday iit has moved up to -7, still pretty bad.]
So one might reasonably conclude that, particularly given the close scores in so many of their games, the Steelers are picking up some flukey wins.
But if you look at the Team Efficiency stats on Football Outsiders, it doesn't look that way. The Steelers, at 8-3, are quite comparable to their estimated win total of 7.5. This is, in fact, exactly the same as New Orleans, and much closer than Green Bay, whose estimated win total is 9.1 at the moment (with 11 actual wins,) or San Francisco, with an estimated 7.1 wins and 9 actual ones. In other words, the Steelers have gotten a break or two, but the record is pretty consistent with the team strength as calculated by other measures.
And the fastest way to change the course of a game is to take the ball away from the other team, as we all know. But the Steelers are mostly giving the ball back to the offense the hard way, by not allowing the other team to move down the field sufficiently far. Obviously they are giving up yards and some scores, but in the end we are seeing a lot more old-fashioned work in the trenches than we are the "splash plays" that everybody (including Mike Tomlin) loves so much.
Of course, we saw a whole lot of splash plays on Sunday night. Astonishingly, we saw almost as many interceptions as we had seen during the previous ten games—3 on Sunday to add to the preceding four. And frankly, without them I wonder if the Steelers would have escaped Arrowhead with a win. But you will note that there were still no fumbles forced, despite the defense's great play.
I wouldn't say that the NFL is targeting the Steelers (although many people would,) but it is clearly targeting the Steelers-style physical play, and I can't help but think that the constant fines have a dampening effect upon the players' desire to tackle really hard. If you are a conspiracy theorist and believe that the Steelers are being unfairly targeted, then it would only confirm that to see that the effect wasn't as marked for most teams in the league. Feel free to interpret the data as you like.
In the meantime, let's hope that the new-found enthusiasm for taking the ball away continues, even with better quarterbacks. And let's also hope that the offense will make a lot better use of the balls they get back than they did on Sunday. It would certainly make life easier on us fans, although the purveyors of Maalox and Tums might lose out. But it seems that this team knows how to get it done, even if it isn't pretty. And in the end, that's a pretty good recipe to take into the post-season.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
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