3. Stephen Paea vs Kelvin Beachum
Who the heck is Kelvin Beachum, you ask? Beachum is filling in for Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was lost for the season in the Week 1 loss to the Titans with a knee injury. Paea has been a solid performer for the Bears at the nose tackle position and he’ll be lining up over Beachum.
If the Bears want to slow down Roethlisberger and keep the Steelers rushing attack grounded, that’s the best place to attack. Collapse the pocket and create opportunities right up the middle. Let’s see if Paea can do more than the pregame haka dance to pump up the team.
2. Jay Cutler vs Troy Polamalu
I’ve tried to dispel the myth that Jay Cutler is bad in night games. If you look at his stats, they’re actually pretty close to his performance in day games and his career averages. Nevertheless, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu will do his level best to make Cutler (and me for that matter) look like a fool. Polamalu is all over the field and isn’t afraid to do a little freelance work to get some takeaways.
A test to see how much Cutler may or may not have improved will come against the opportunistic Polamalu. He’ll try to bait Cutler into making some mistakes and throwing a pick or two.
1. Brandon Marshall vs Ike Taylor
Ike Taylor limited Bengals’ superstar AJ Green to 6 catches for just 41 yards last Monday night. Taylor is a tough corner who will give Marshall all he wants and more.
The Steelers will certainly put an emphasis on shutting down the Bears’ top receiving option and try to force Cutler into settling for other options. Marshall has seen tough coverage in prime time before but if he gets one-on-one matchups, he’ll make Taylor earn his paycheck.
Bonus: Marc Trestman vs Dick LeBeau
As I was winding up the top matchups on the field, I realized the most compelling matchup could be the chess match going on off the field. Dick LeBeau is world renowned for his zone blitzing scheme, a scheme that came to prominence in large part to shut down the West Coast offense.
Trestman, of course, is a West Coast disciple and has brought those principles to the Bears offense. LeBeau will bring blitzes from everywhere including the stands while Trestman will try to mix it up and make the Steelers pay for overpursuit and aggressiveness. Look for Forte and Martellus Bennett to play big roles on Sunday for the Bears to counter LeBeau’s blitzing ways.