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Lack of takeaways still plaguing Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- A search for answers after a 20-point loss in Baltimore will lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a familiar place: turnovers.

And not the three they committed last Thursday, including a lost fumble that snuffed out an opening drive that should have resulted in at least three points.

The Steelers have not forced a turnover in two games, and such a statistic would not mean too much standing on its own since the 2014 season is still in its infancy.

But the Steelers have not fielded an opportunistic defense since 2010, the last time they played in the Super Bowl, and Brett Keisel is at a loss to explain why.

“I wish I knew the answer to that because you guys have been asking that for a while,” the veteran defensive end said.

The questions, Keisel would be the first to admit, are justified.

The Steelers forced 35 turnovers in 2010, and they erased a double-digit halftime lead against the Ravens in an AFC divisional playoff game with a couple of game-changing takeaways in the third quarter.

Since 2010, the Steelers have averaged a tick under 20 takeaways per season.

They had 20 last season -- none during a disastrous 0-4 September -- and if the start of 2014 is any indication the Steelers are still trying to figure out how to win the crucial turnover battle.

“They kind of just happen,” free safety Mike Mitchell said of takeaways. “You capitalize when you have an opportunity.”

The Steelers missed an opportunity early in the fourth quarter last Thursday night when they were still in the game.

A blitzing Ryan Shazier forced Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to make an ill-advised throw near the goal line that cornerback Cortez Allen had a chance to intercept. Allen made a nice play on the ball but he couldn’t pick it off and the Ravens kicked a short field to increase their lead to 20-6.

The catch was a tough one for Allen but the Steelers have to make those plays if they want to start generating turnovers.

“They’re going to come,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said after the 26-6 loss to the Ravens. “I’m not going to worry about that. We were in position a bunch of times. We just have to finish them.”

Keisel agreed.

“We’ve got to give our offense the ball,” he said, “and give them short fields and put points on the board.”

Until the Steelers start doing that the question will persist as to why the defense has not been more opportunistic.