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Harris: Turnovers compound Steelers' woes

| Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

Undefeated Indianapolis and New Orleans have something in common with one-loss Minnesota, as does New England, San Diego and Cincinnati, which all have three losses.

The teams with the best records in the NFL this season create more turnovers than they commit. Their ability to take care of the football while also being able to take away the football from opponents makes them difficult to beat.

Then there are the Steelers. The defending Super Bowl champions are playing winning football, as evidenced by their 6-4 record. The Steelers, however, are not playing at a championship level as they did when they won Super Bowl XLIII last season.

The biggest culprit is turnovers. The Steelers have been careless with the football. What's more, the defense isn't taking away the ball as frequently as it did a year ago.

After committing three turnovers in Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss at Kansas City while recording only one takeaway, the Steelers are minus-5 in turnovers.

Compare that with the Steelers being plus-4 in turnovers in 2008. That's a 9-turnover difference and a clear indication why the Steelers have already equaled last year's loss total with six games remaining.

The best teams take the ball away more than they lose it. If that sounds like a cliche, that's because it is — but real nonetheless.

New England is plus-12 in turnovers. New Orleans is plus-10. Indianapolis and Minnesota are plus-6. San Diego is plus-5, and Cincinnati plus-2.

The Steelers, Dallas and Arizona are the only consistent winners this season with more turnovers than takeaways. Arizona (7-3) is minus-5; Dallas (7-3) is minus-4.

The Steelers committed two turnovers in the third quarter against Kansas City. The Chiefs converted a pair of Ben Roethlisberger interceptions — both by linebacker Andy Studebaker — into 10 points.

The turnovers transferred momentum, turning a potential Steelers blowout win into a 17-17 tie entering the fourth quarter.

"When you turn the ball over, no matter who you play, the chances of winning are very slim," wide receiver Hines Ward said.

"I think we lost the momentum in the third quarter with all the turnovers. When you turn the ball over like that, it's very hard to beat anybody in this league."

The turnovers gave underdog Kansas City confidence and hope. Conversely, the Steelers' defense regained momentum with a big turnover leading to a score.

In the fourth quarter, the Steelers tallied their only points of the second half on Roethlisberger's 8-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Mendenhall following a Lawrence Timmons sack and James Harrison's fumble recovery at the Kansas City 27.

When the Steelers won Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season, they were plus-7 in turnovers. In 2006, the Steelers were minus-8 in turnovers and missed the playoffs.

We'll learn soon if the Steelers will resemble the '05 or '06 version.

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