Christmas has come early for the Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears, Ryan Poles
Chicago Bears, Ryan Poles / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

It's the season of giving, and Chicago Bears fans are already in the holiday spirit. That's because the Pittsburgh Steelers have virtually guaranteed that Ryan Poles will get all he wanted for Christmas this year: the #1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers gave the Chicago Bears an early Christmas gift

Last year's present came late, but when Lovie Smith and the Texans pulled off a miracle win over the Colts on January 8th, Bears fans all agreed it was worth the wait. That win, coupled with a Bears loss to the Vikings, gave the Bears the #1 pick, which they parlayed into a massive haul from the Carolina Panthers.

Just like a membership in the Jelly of the Month Club, Lovie's present is the gift that keeps on giving, as it also ended up giving the Bears control of the Carolina Panthers' first-round pick this year. The Panthers, for their part, have stuffed the stockings with care, as their continued ineptitude has turned what was already a valuable commodity into a priceless one.

The Panthers have been at the bottom of the NFL all year, but with the end of the season in sight, Bears fans could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel to possessing one of the most coveted draft picks in years.

Like having the most generous person at the party pulling your name for the Secret Santa gift, the Bears have been extremely lucky to receive help from unlikely places. Last year's storyline was perfect, as Lovie, who has been the only Bears coach to sustain any kind of success this century (let that sink in for a minute), was the one to give Bears fans one last gift.

This year, Bears fans have taken to thanking former QB1 Mitch Trubisky for helping them, though I find that to go against the spirit of the season. Trubisky has struggled in the last two weeks after filling in for Kenny Pickett, who went down with an ankle injury midway through the game against the Cardinals, and poor quarterback play is a big part of why the Steelers have lost two straight games to two of the worst teams in the league, though it's far from the only culprit.

The Steelers are fighting for a playoff spot in the crowded AFC. They hadn't been impressive in achieving a 7-4 record, but they did find ways to win. Although they seemed to be more pretender than contender, that's still no excuse to lose back-to-back home games against the Cardinals and Patriots, two teams that had a combined four wins between them before facing Pittsburgh. The Steelers' defense has really regressed, especially against the toothless Patriots, as they gave up 21 first-half points to Bailey Zappe and Ezekiel Elliott in primetime.

Arizona and New England were the two teams with a realistic shot at overtaking (undertaking?) the Panthers for the league's worst record, so it's even more surprising that they pulled off road victories when they had every incentive to lose and lock up their draft position, but Bears fans aren't complaining.

Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Marvin Harrison, Jr., and others are waiting at the top of the draft, and now the Bears are a virtual lock to have their pick of the litter. Whether Ryan Poles opts to draft a new franchise quarterback or not will depend largely on how Justin Fields finishes the season, but no matter what, the Bears will definitely have a chance to substantially improve their roster, either by drafting an elite prospect or trading down for an exorbitant trove of picks and players.

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Like George Bailey running through the streets of Bedford Falls at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, Bears fans should be thanking everyone they see. Merry Christmas, you wonderful old building and loan! Merry Christmas, Lovie Smith! Merry Christmas, Pittsburgh Steelers! To paraphrase George's guardian angel, Clarence, no team is a failure who has the Panthers' first-round draft pick. Merry Christmas, Bears fans.

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