Where Exactly Did It Go Wrong for the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Curt PopejoyContributor IDecember 31, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers fumbles while trying to outrun the tackle of  Corey Wootton #98 of the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field on September 22, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Chicago won the game 40-23. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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.

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 8:  Maurkice Pouncey #53 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lays on the grass after suffering an injury against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at Heinz Field on September 8, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Vin
Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images

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. 

OpponentWin/LossTOTO forced
Tennessee TitansLoss20
Cincinnati BengalsLoss20
Chicago BearsLoss50
Minnesota VikingsLoss20
New York JetsWin02
Baltimore RavensWin10
Oakland RaidersLoss32
New England PatriotsLoss31
Buffalo BillsWin11
Detroit LionsWin03
Cleveland BrownsWin04
Baltimore RavensLoss00
Miami DolphinsLoss10
Cincinnati BengalsWin11
Green Bay PackersWin22
Cleveland BrownsWin22

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.

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 03:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts following a missed catch in the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

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.