The two sides of turnovers

DENVER _ The majority of the talk in the visitor's locker room was about turnovers, but it wasn't a one-sided conversation.

The Steelers turned the ball over four times on Sunday afternoon at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.

But they also failed to generate a takeaway, another critical component of what turned out to be an almost baffling, 24-17 loss to the Broncos that wasn't lost on cornerback Joe Haden.

"We gotta get more turnovers on defense," Haden maintained. "I think we want to protect the ball a little better, but at the same time on defense we gotta be able to get the ball out. We gotta be able to create some turnovers, some picks, some forced fumbles.

"Running plays, or if they catch the ball, ball searching, always just trying to punch at the football, trying to rip it out, trying to break it out. We gotta do a better job of creating fumbles, fumbles and interceptions, definitely."

The Steelers took the field on Sunday tied for No. 20 in the NFL with 12 takeaways and having had more than one in a game on two occasions.

After producing at least one turnover in each of the first five games, they've come up empty in that department in three of the last six.

"We can't point fingers," inside linebacker Jon Bostic agreed. "We didn't turn the ball over enough. We haven't done much of that all season.

"We need to pick it up."

The four giveaways on offense were the most since the Steelers had five in their season-opening, 21-21 tie at Cleveland.

They've turned the ball over seven times in their last two games and at least twice in five of 11 overall.

The four turnovers against the Broncos spoiled an afternoon that saw the Steelers gain a season-high 527 total net yards and hold onto the ball for 35:00, the third-best time-of-possession effort in 2018.

"Just don't turn the ball over, it's as simple as that," center Maurkice Pouncey said. "Everything else we did really well."

Added quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "When you turn the ball over that many times it's hard to win those games but give them credit. They made the plays and forced the turnovers."

NOT WHAT THEY'D ENVISIONED: The first turnover resulted in a touchback that ended the Steelers' second possession. Tight end Xavier Grimble caught a short pass from Roethlisberger on third-and-1 from the Broncos' 24-yard line and rumbled to the goal line, where he was blasted by safety Will Parks. Grimble fumbled into the end zone and out of bounds.

"Wide open, caught the ball, went to the goal line, got hit," Grimble said. "Wasn't expecting that."

The last was an interception by nose tackle Shelby Harris on third-and-goal from the Denver 2 with 1:07 left in regulation.

"He's not dropping," into coverage, Roethlisberger said. "He got blocked right into the play. There's no way to ever think that guy's going to make that play.

"Of all the interceptions I've thrown, that's one of the most fluky I've ever been associated with."

Pouncey said he hadn't blocked a player into an INT previously.

"No, that was a first," he said.

In between, there was a pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown that was intercepted by cornerback Chris Harris Jr. at the Denver 42 and returned 15 yards to the Steelers' 43 with the Steelers ahead, 17-10, midway through the third quarter. Roethlisberger had a lengthy discussion with umpire Alan Eck after that one.

"He got grabbed," Roethlisberger said of Brown. "That's why the ball got picked. I just tried to figure out why they didn't call it."

The third of the Steelers' four turnovers was a fumble by running back James Conner after a 23-yard catch and run to the Denver 23 on the final play of the third quarter.

"You gotta be better, better on the details," guard David DeCastro said. "Everyone put two hands on the ball, us block a little longer, everyone take a little piece of it."

WHATEVER IT TAKES: The Steelers turned a fake field goal into a 2-yard touchdown pass from kicker Chris Boswell to offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva on the final play of the first half that got them into the locker room tied at 10-10.

"I'm a tackle, I'm not a wide receiver," said Villanueva, who caught five touchdown passes as a wide receiver at Army in 2009. "I don't get as excited about those plays. I get more excited if I can do my job blocking and giving Ben time to throw to the play-makers and the dancers."

NEXT MAN UP: Rookie Chukwuma Okorafor made his first NFL start at right offensive tackle in place of Matt Feiler, who was active but had been listed as questionable due to a pec injury.

Feiler had replaced starter Marcus Gilbert (inactive, knee) in the previous four games.

Okorafor spent much of the game lined up across from Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who came in with 10 sacks but finished with just two assisted tackles and half a sack against the Steelers.

"'Chuks' came in there and played his butt off," DeCastro said. "It just (stinks) we have nothing to show for it."

Miller and rookie outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (nine sacks) were No. 1 in the NFL in combined sacks by a pass-rushing duo.

Roethlisberger was sacked twice and took off running after being flushed from the pocket twice on 58 passing attempts.

"I thought the line was awesome," Roethlisberger said. "I wish we could have won it for (Okorafor). He stepped in, played a great football game.

"The guys gave me time. This game's not on the line, I promise you that."

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