Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Steelers’ defense has been shut-out when it has come to takeaways through their first two games.
Then again, Pittsburgh’s defenders have been ineffective to say the least when it has come to them forcing turnovers in recent seasons. Yet many defenses with stone-handed cornerbacks, a lack of a consistent pass-rush, and issues defending the run are not likely to take the ball away with any consistency anyway.
Assuming that Pittsburgh’s defense will be unable to force any takeaways once again, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense must be wary of the Bears’ takeaway-happy cornerbacks on Sunday night.
Standing in the way of Pittsburgh’s offense will be “Pro Bowlers” Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Tim Jennings, both of whom have made themselves famous throughout N.F.L. circles for their takeaway talents.
Tillman has been quite the nuisance for opposing offenses to deal with during his 11 year career, and Ike Taylor’s former college has made forcing fumbles into an art for defensive backs throughout his days as a professional. Overall, Tillman has forced 37 career fumbles, including a league-high 10 last season.
A large (6’1″ 196 lbs.) and strong cornerback, Tillman has made a living off of stripping and punching the ball away from opposing ball-carriers. Rarely does one get to see cornerbacks excelling in that particular area, but the former Ragin’ Cajun is far and away the best I have ever seen when it comes to that specific skill.
Of course, Tillman does not just force fumbles to help his team. He has a knack for being around the ball at all times, and his 35 career interceptions and 11 career fumble recoveries speak to his tremendous ability. The Steelers could receive a bit of good luck on Sunday though, because Tillman is listed as “questionable” with a knee injury according to Chicago’s team website. Still, one would have to think that the veteran cornerback would be ready to lace them up for such an important road game.
As much press as Tillman receives, it is easy for some of Chicago’s other defenders to get lost in the shuffle. However, Tim Jennings has a “nose for the football” as well, and the Bears’ other starting cornerback is not someone the Steelers should take lightly.
Jennings broke out in a big way last fall when he led the league with nine interceptions. Although Jennings (5’8″ 186 lbs.) is nowhere near as physically imposing as Tillman, his toughness and willingness to mix it up with players bigger than him helps him when it comes to being around the football. Now in his eighth year in the league, Jennings has picked off a combined 17 passes, forced seven fumbles, and recovered another five.
Chicago’s starting cornerbacks have already forced a combined six turnovers this season (three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery), so Pittsburgh’s offensive players must be on “high alert” on Sunday night.
Either Tillman or Jennings could turn the tide in the Bears’ direction with an momentous turnover, and the Steelers must have the football secured at all times.
What happened on Monday night with David Paulson is a prime example of what can happen when offensive players do not account for turnover-hungry defensive backs. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Isaac Redman have put some of their ball-security issues on display over the last two seasons, and they would be wise to take extra precaution to know where Tillman and Jennings are located.
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