Sometimes, life is funny. The best laid plans are often undone because of the most fundamental of faults. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, what started off as a nightmare of epic proportions came down to the final weekend with a playoff spot on the line.
However, as is so often the case, when a team has to depend on what happens in other games, things do not go according to plan. Looking back on the Steelers' season in its entirety, there are several areas to point to, including injuries.
But injuries were not what happened to this team. Every NFL franchise is forced to endure injuries. It is as much a part of the game as the offense.
No, what happened with the Steelers in 2013 was much more basic. Fundamental to its principal and one of the most basic tenets of the game. The Steelers lost the turnover battle.
From Pop Warner, players are taught to take care of the football and try to create turnovers. In games that the Steelers won, they took this advice to heart. In games they lost, this was a universal thread in how they fell short.
|New York Jets||Win||0||2|
|New England Patriots||Loss||3||1|
|Green Bay Packers||Win||2||2|
Turnover ratio in losses: -15
Turnover ratio in wins: +8
This isn't a recent problem for the Steelers. In 2012, their turnover ratio was -10. In 2011, it was -13. In 2010, Pittsburgh was +17 and, by no coincidence, finished 12-4 and made it to the Super Bowl.
Numbers like these are difficult to argue. Clearly, ball security was a fundamental point of inconsistency for the Steelers in 2013. And their ability to force turnovers continues to be an area of deficiency.
As disappointing as the team's 0-4 start was, it was fairly simple to reconcile. Having 11 turnovers in four games without forcing a single turnover is a pretty straightforward formula for failure.
When a season goes the way 2013 did for Pittsburgh, it is easy for unbridled speculation and conjecture about what happened. Yes, injuries mattered. Yes, lapses in coverage mattered. Lots of things played a role. Nevertheless, when it comes down to the root of this team's problems, it is hard to look past the staggering disparity between turnovers and winning and losing.
If the goal is to return to the playoffs and, ultimately, the Super Bowl, shoring up the turnovers and finding a way to create more of them must be paramount.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com.