After week two’s last second win over the Vikings, the Bears are now on the road for two straight games. This Sunday night, they will be in Pittsburgh for a primetime contest against the 0-2 Steelers. This Gameday Preview is ON.
(2-0) Chicago Bears at
(0-2) Pittsburgh Steelers
We’ll get into the problems Pittsburgh has on offense in a bit, but their defense is nearly just as good as its always been. Aside from an injury to linebacker Lawrence Timmons and the departure of James Harrison, this is almost the same unit that ranked first in the NFL in total defense in 2012. Rookie Jarvis Jones has been getting more playing time at outside linebacker, and figures to be a fixture of this defense for years to come. Getting him blocked on the edge will do wonders for Chicago’s ability to keep Jay Cutler upright. And Jay will need to focus up and avoid the big mistakes in this game if Chicago’s going to win. The Steelers haven’t defended the run well this season, giving up over 100 yards to both the Titans and Bengals. So unlike past meetings, the Bears might actually be able to commit to their running game with Matt Forte.
Cornerback Ike Taylor is one of those names you don’t hear mentioned as often as you should. He’s legitimately a shut-down corner, but doesn’t get any of the crazy interception stats because well, his hands are shitty. He’ll be straight up on Brandon Marshall the entire night if coordinator Dick LeBeau doesn’t miss his anti-aging medicine and get crazy. So that means Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett will once again be called upon to move the sticks and get into the endzone. With no Cortez Allen for the Steeler secondary, Jeffery should have a clear advantage over his defender.
We all know about safety Troy Polamalu’s ability to make plays on the ball as well as his luscious hair follicles. What I said last week about how Jay shouldn’t hang a pass out for Harrison Smith to pick it off? That goes double for Polamalu. The Steelers don’t create a ton of turnovers, so let’s not aid their endeavors. Troy will most certainly be patrolling the line of scrimmage in certain running situations as well, trying to time his attack to disrupt the timing of the quarterback/running back exchange. If Jay can lure him into some bad decisions with a tricky snap count, the Bears could dissuade his aggressiveness and earn some cheap yards in the process. Oh, and Ryan Clark can make interceptions too from the other safety spot. So… don’t throw at them.
Everyone got a chance to scout this offense on Monday night, right? Where they struggled mightiliy to put up ten points against the Bengals? Yeah, this is that team. The Steeler offensive line has been the victim of key injuries in recent seasons, and 2013 is not an exception. Losing center Maurkice Pouncey for the year is a staggering blow. Kevin Beachum is a depth-filling lineman that they like, but center is probably his worst position along the line. It’s a drop-off. Other than maybe right guard David DeCastro (who missed most of his rookie year in 2012), the Steeler o-line is nothing special. If Julius Peppers and Henry Melton come up with less than good performances, I’d be disappointed. There’s too much talent in Chicago’s front four for there not to be pressure in Big Ben’s face. Roethlisberger is still a solid quarterback, but he hasn’t been getting any help from a revolving door line and a lack of talented weapons. He’s going to throw at least one dumb interception.
Running back LeVeon Bell (listed as questionable) and tight Heath Miller (probable), both practiced several days during the week for the first time during the regular season. Their impact on a trudging offensive will be noticeable. Bell will be a significant upgrade over the backs Pittsburgh has been playing in the first two weeks. He’s a workhorse and has more moves than say, an Isaac Redman. As their ground game has been brutally lackluster, the Steelers need Bell healthy soon. Miller’s likely insertion into the starting lineup gives Ben a reliable target that can move the chains on intermediate routes, as opposed to the hit-or-miss burners he has at wide receiver. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are similar wide-outs, both with definite big-play abilities. They’re each averaging over 11 yards a catch this season, so containing them is a must. Charles Tillman will likely be a game-time decision, meaning Tim Jennings could be the top corner in the Bear secondary. Let’s not kid ourselves here though. Pittsburgh’s offense is ugly and will have trouble scoring more than 13 points.
The Bears are favored by two points on the road.
You know what? I’m taking the Bears here. I’m ready to believe that this version of the Bears won’t put up a crapper against an inferior opponent on national television. The Steelers aren’t what they were a couple years ago. This shouldn’t be all that close.
How many heart attacks will Joe suffer?
Three to four, I’d reckon. Any Bear game on NBC is likely to stir up pulmonary issues.
Message to the Bears
If you come out and embarrass yourselves on Sunday night in front of the nation, you deserve the reactionary flack you’ll get in the media this week. Don’t let that happen.
And there you go. Another Gameday Preview completed! Be sure to follow me @MostlyAvgJoe for in-game tweets and snark. Bear Down and Happy Jay Cutler Day!