View Full Version : Kovacevic: Time for Steelers to steal

12-28-2011, 05:53 AM
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Kovacevic: Time for Steelers to steal

By Dejan Kovacevic
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The adage that defense wins championships has been accepted in the NFL since well before Vince Lombardi puffed his first sideline cigarette.

But bring that up with anyone whose football analysis runs deeper than nodding when Boomer and Shannon bump fists, and they'll reflexively respond that the championship formula for a defense isn't just about preventing points. It's about helping to produce a few. It's about returning an interception for a touchdown more often than, oh, zero times in 15 games. It's about forcing more than five fumbles all year.

This is a game of turnovers, as Mike Tomlin loves to say, but it's a game in which the Steelers have been a stunning failure even as they somehow sit here at 11-4 with a playoff berth.

The trend won't last. Count on it.

Takeaway total for the season: 14, a league low, on 10 interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

Takeaway total in the 27-0 shutout of the pathetic St. Louis Rams on Saturday: Zero.

Takeaway total in the playoffs?

There had better be a few.

"I think it's very important that we get more takeaways," cornerback Ike Taylor said Tuesday. "Takeaways throughout any game, in general, are great. But we look at other things with our defense, too, especially in the red zone. If you can get a team to kick for three instead of scoring seven, that's a four-point swing. That's huge. No question we started off slow as far as turnovers, but we're coming around."

Taylor then became a bit animated: "We're still No. 1, man. We just had a shutout."

The man's right. The Steelers rank No. 1 in total defense in allowing 274 yards per game, and they're No. 1 in pass defense in allowing 172 yards per game.

That's wonderful, and I'm not going to diminish it.

But it's not going to be enough without more fingers on the football.

In the past 10 Super Bowls, during the NFL's quarterback-friendly era with balls flying everywhere, 17 of the 20 participants ranked in the top 10 for takeaways. Half the participants had 30 or more takeaways in the regular season, and none had fewer than the Seattle Seahawks' 24 when the Steelers beat them in Super Bowl XL.

Go back to last season, and all four participants in the conference championship games Steelers, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears ranked in the top seven for takeaways, all with at least 30. Those Steelers ranked No. 2 with 35 takeaways, then added four more in two playoff victories before coming up empty in the Super Bowl loss.

The current Steelers are nowhere near that level.

They have pitched in eight measly points with one defensive touchdown Troy Polamalu's fumble scoop in Indianapolis in Week 3 plus a safety.

They also have shoved the offense's back to the wall. The Steelers have begun a drive in the opponents' territory only six times as the result of a takeaway. Their average starting position is their 26.2-yard line, ranking 27th in the league. In San Francisco two weeks ago, their average starting position of the 15-yard line was the worst in any NFL game since 2005.

The crazy part is that these are mostly the same players from last year.

What's gone wrong?

Way atop my list is that James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have shared a field for just three full games. That's reduced the Steelers' ability to rush the quarterback and, in turn, Dick LeBeau's willingness to blitz. Heat in the backfield is the best path to turnovers, and these bookends need to get back to executing strip-sacks.

Lawrence Timmons has bounced inside and outside, which has hurt his pass coverage. But that doesn't pardon the most underachieving performance on the roster. It's well past time he steps up, without anyone having to chew him out on the sideline.

In the secondary, there's no earthly reason for Polamalu, one of the most dynamic defensive forces in NFL history, to have one interception and zero forced fumbles. And there's no reason corners can't take more well-timed risks like William Gay's jump-the-route, game-clinching pick in Cincinnati last month.

The Steelers love to go for those seismic hits, even with the league's new rules limiting their legality.

Try for the ball once in a while. Roger Goodell won't mind.

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or .

Read more: Kovacevic: Time for Steelers to steal - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/columnists/print_773901.html#ixzz1hpU9g4IJ

12-28-2011, 08:33 AM
#1 in total defense.

#32 in take aways.

How is that even possible?

12-28-2011, 01:10 PM
It amazes me thus D is so good with out turn overs. In the majority of games this season there have opportunity for pics. We seem to drop 1-2 potential pics per game. That gets corrected and nobody beats us. However that's a big "IF"

12-28-2011, 01:17 PM
If any one should know is Ike, he should of had 2 picks last week....

12-28-2011, 01:41 PM
#1 in total defense.

#32 in take aways.

How is that even possible?

having the opposition punt alot... in seriousness, it really is weird. This has been a weird season all together.

12-28-2011, 01:44 PM
When Harrison and Woodley are in there together, they will be creating more pressure and the turnovers will start to come.

12-29-2011, 04:30 AM
When Harrison and Woodley are in there together, they will be creating more pressure and the turnovers will start to come.

And they haven't been a duo most of the season. Imagine what Timmons will be able to do when the attention is no longer on him and Harrison? I have a feeling Timmons will be able to have a breakthrough streak if Harrison and Woodley stay in.