Steelers defense losing turnover battle
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers created just 20 turnovers in 2012.
Through three games this season they are on pace for considerably less.
The Steelers defense has played 190 snaps through three games and been unable to get the ball even once. Still, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau does not believe the team is pressing even though Pittsburgh is the only team in the league not to generate a turnover through the season's first three weeks.
"No, I don't think it's been to that extent," LeBeau said Thursday. "So, I think we're going to get some turnovers. We've had the ball out, and we've had the ball bouncing around. We just didn't get it. There's no question that we've got to help our guys and get some turnovers to get some field position. We've got to do better there.
"There's no doubt about that."
Pittsburgh's only real chance came last week against Chicago when cornerback William Gay jarred the ball loose from Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery managed to fall on it and a chance for the Steelers (0-3) to flip the field was lost.
The lack of a pass rush isn't helping. The Steelers have just three sacks.
"I always want more sacks, but I think we're getting good pressure on the quarterback," LeBeau said. "And our third-down numbers are pretty good, and that usually means you're getting some pressure on the quarterback."
LeBeau generally doesn't like to blitz unless he has to, but he sent waves of players after Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler last week. Still, the sacks were limited to defensive end Brett Keisel and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
"We just haven't had any, and that's the truth," Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said. "When you get turnovers, it's kind of a thing ... when the games are tight, quarterbacks don't want to take the risk. And they're not putting quarterbacks in a position to turn the ball over. So, it's a lot tougher.
"That's what makes it tough getting turnovers."
The defense is expected to get a boost from the return of cornerback Cortez Allen, who has missed the past 2½ games with an ankle injury. Allen made an immediate impact when he entered the lineup last season, and he finished with three forced fumbles, one recovered and two interceptions. Maybe Allen is all the Steelers need to finally get a spark.
"It has nothing to do with me," Allen said. "When I get in there, I try to contribute to it as best as I can, but that's a collective battle, a collective mission and goal no matter who's in there. So, that's everybody's job.
"I don't take the weight of everything on me. My approach to it is that I'm going to do whatever I can to help us win, and I hope to do it by creating some turnovers."
NOTES: Keisel, who did not practice Wednesday due to a sore hamstring, returned Thursday to work out on a full-time basis. Tight end Heath Miller (knee) was limited and did not finish practice. Along with Keisel, Allen (ankle), running back Le'Veon Bell (foot) and nose tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring) practiced on a full-time basis.