Area of emphasis

The numbers don't add up and the Steelers know it.

Their defense ranks first in sacks (39), sixth in yards per game (325.1), 11th in points per game (22.6) and tied for 22nd in takeaways (12).

"I think they have some sticky-glue on their gloves or something when they play us," defensive end Stephon Tuitt insisted.

Illegal substances aside, head coach Mike Tomlin has let it be known 12 takeaways isn't cutting it, to the media and especially to his players.

"Talking to us, just telling us when we're in positions to make those plays we have to catch them," cornerback Joe Haden reported. "A lot of the balls have been hitting us in the face. I've dropped two or three, (strong safety) Terrell (Edmunds) has dropped a couple.

"Just the ones that hit us, the ones that come to us, make those plays."

The Steelers have been making an effort to make more of those plays this week, and to create more opportunities to make them.

"You saw a lot of guys out there flying around, getting interceptions," Tuitt said after practice on Wednesday. "You saw a lot of guys emphasizing getting their hand on the ball, running to the ball, getting the ball out. We do that consistently, anyway. But at the same time we have to make it show up on game day.

"We have to do a better job and try to get the ball out, from a receiver catching it, to a quarterback having the ball in his hand, to a running back running it."

The practice attention to those details was anticipated given Tomlin emphasizing the need for more takeaways on Tuesday.

But there's only so much that can be done in such a setting.

"It's hard to simulate those things in today's day and age," outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. "In practice we don't get to tackle quarterbacks at all. We can't simulate any of that stuff."

Given the limitations of practice, defenders are emphasizing being "better with our eyes," Watt continued. "I think that's the biggest thing we've been talking about, being better with our eyes on keying the quarterback, keying the ball.

"The problem with us is so many tipped passes have been falling to the ground. The teams that get a lot of takeaways, those tipped passes don't get to the ground. We need to get to those balls more."

Nickel cornerback Mike Hilton appreciates what the defense has been able to accomplish despite its inability to consistently take the ball away, and the impact creating more turnovers might make.

"If we're playing that well without getting turnovers, who knows what we can do once we start forcing more turnovers and getting our hands on balls?" he said. "It's something we have to thrive on, especially now that it's deeper into the season. 

"Those one or two possessions that you can give back to your offense are going to be critical. We have plenty of pass break-ups. We have to find ways to turn those pass break-ups into INTs."

The Steelers prepare for the week 13 matchup against the LA Chargers.

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