The month of November showed us the two extremes the Pittsburgh Steelers can play at. On the top end, we have the Carolina Panthers game. Both sides of the ball playing extremely well. No penalties. No turnovers. No mistakes. When the Steelers play that way, they are nearly unstoppable. Fast forward to the Broncos game, and it’s the complete opposite. Too many turnovers, dropped passes, penalties, and dumb decisions cost them a game they had no business losing. The Steelers nearly doubled the Broncos in yardage, and somehow still managed to get beat.
The good news is Pittsburgh has seemed to get a hold of their penalty issue. After leading the league in that category for most of the season, the Steelers have only nine penalties in the last three games. Even with being much better lately, they are still fourth overall in penalties this season. The bad news is turnovers have become a real problem. Ben Roethlisberger alone has five interceptions in the last two games. He now sits at twelve for the year, good for second worst in the NFL. What’s worse is Big Ben was quoted as being “not concerned” about the interceptions, and that he will “keep slinging it” in the future. Not exactly what you want to hear. James Conner is not without blame in the turnover department either. Whether it’s ill timed fumbles, or just simple dropped passes, he’s had his issues as well.
Compounding all of this is the defense’s inability create turnovers of their own. Pittsburgh’s defense has only twelve turnovers total for the season, good for 23rd in the league. That in turn leads to a miserable turnover differential of -7, which is 26th worst in the NFL. Since 2014, only one team made the playoffs with a turnover differential the same or worse as the Steelers have now. The 2016 Houston Texans won the AFC South with a 9-7 record and a -7 differential. These are sobering numbers for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
As usual this team is it’s own worst enemy. They have managed to cut out all the off-field distractions, but are still capable of very sloppy play on the field. When the Steelers play mistake free football like the game against Carolina, they are good enough to beat anybody in the league. Play like they did this past Sunday against the likes of the Saints, Rams, or Chiefs, and they will be blown out of the stadium. Simply put, if the Steelers don’t beat themselves we could be in for one hell of a ride the remainder of the season. That’s a very big “if” though.