The Bears take on the Steelers on Sunday night in what is, surprisingly, the first primetime meeting between these two storied franchises. On paper the Bears appear to be clear favorites, but football is not played on paper and I expect a hard-hitting, hotly contested matchup. Pittsburgh is looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2000, while Chicago is coming off winning back to back games by a total of 4 points for the first time since 1998. Without any further delay, let’s get to the keys for the Monsters of the Midway to get to 3-0 this season:
Offense: I know it’s cliché, but I think the difference in this game will come down to the quarterbacks. The Steelers are still as stout as ever against the run, and if they cover Brandon Marshall as well as they covered A.J. Green on Monday, he’s in for a long night. More than ever it is paramount that Jay Cutler dissect Dick LeBeau’s confusing coverage schemes while spreading the ball around to as many different receivers as possible. Of course the offensive line is also a concern. Starting two rookies against one of the most complicated, blitz-happy schemes in the NFL is less than ideal, but I expect Cutler’s movement skills to more or less make up for that. If Jay has a solid, mistake free day, expect the score to be in favor of Chicago.
Defense: Getting exceptional play from your quarterback is a great start, but it’s only half the equation. You have to stop the other team’s passer as well. While Pittsburgh’s lack of a running game and offensive line woes seem to bode well for Chicago’s slumping pass rush, getting pressure on Big Ben is not enough. You have to bring him down as well; a task that is easier said than done. If I had a nickel for every time I saw a defense seemingly have Ben Roethlisberger dead to rights only for him to break out of a tackle and get the ball down the field for a big play… I’d be able to do laundry for free for the rest of my life. The Bears need to get multiple defenders into the backfield, if not to bring him down, then to further effect his throwing motion to help cause turnovers. Look for the defense to blitz a lot this week.
Special Teams: I’m not worried about this phase at all this week. Yes, Cordarrelle Patterson took one to the house last week, but every team has bad plays every now and again. The important thing was that the coverage team rebounded and looked solid the rest of the game. Devin Hester Seems to have gotten some of his old swagger back, and I expect him to get into the end zone sooner rather than later.
In summation, I think the Bears have a very good shot at winning this game, but it will be closer than you might think. Let us know what you think. Are the Beloved doomed to fall under the domination of the Steel Curtain, or will they BEAR DOWN and stomp the competition?