- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The focus for the Pittsburgh Steelers' top-ranked defense all offseason has been generating more turnovers. The defense took the ball away 20 times, which was the eighth fewest in the NFL.
Turnovers, though, was as much of a problem on offense as on defense and ultimately kept the Steelers out of the playoffs last season. When the Steelers jumped out to a 6-3 start, they turned the ball over nine times. During a 2-5 finish, Pittsburgh gave up the ball away 21 times.
“As the offensive coordinator, after the season is over we can’t look back on it and say, ‘Halfway through the year we had the second-fewest turnovers in the league and by the end of the year we were toward the back of the pack," offensive coordinator Todd Haley told the team's official website. “That can’t happen. That plus-minus has to be up in the plus range. That’s proven.”
Some of the offense's worst moments were turnovers. Wide receiver Antonio Brown's fourth-quarter fumble in Week 3 led to the upset loss at Oakland. Two Pittsburgh turnovers were converted into field goals in a 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. There were the eight turnovers in the embarrassing loss at Cleveland. And there was Ben Roethlisberger's two critical interceptions that led to two losses in December, an overtime one in Dallas and a fourth-quarter one against the Bengals.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, opponents scored 110 points off Steelers turnovers last season. That's more than one-third of the points allowed by the Steelers' defense.
The Steelers have made improvements to the offense this year. They're communicating more on that side of the ball. They upgraded the running game by drafting Le'Veon Bell in the second round. But none of that will matter if the Steelers can't hold onto the ball.