Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The Steelers are 0-2 and they will be in desperation mode tonight when they take on the Bears. How will tonight’s game go for both teams? I have some thoughts on the matter:
Pittsburgh’s Offense vs. Chicago’s Defense
Unless the Steelers can receive some competent play out of their offensive line, this unit is “D.O.A.” before this game even begins.
Pittsburgh’s running game has been dreadful during the team’s first two regular season contests (75 combined rushing yards), and Isaac Redman has been a total flop. Tonight the Steelers will start Felix Jones, and hopefully the veteran can perform better than Redman and Jonathan Dwyer have during the last couple of seasons. Chicago’s defense ranks 11th in the league in yards per carry allowed (3.4), and it will be up to Fernando Velasco, David DeCastro, and Ramon Foster to open up holes on the interior against the athletic and tough Henry Melton and Stephen Paea.
If and when the Steelers go to the pass, tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams must be ready for the pass-rushing onslaught led by All-Pro Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin, and Corey Wootton on the edges. Both of Pittsburgh’s tackles have struggled mightily this year, and Ben Roethlisberger might need to “Houdini” himself out of jams for much of the game.
Hopefully offensive coordinator Todd Haley can insert rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton into the lineup more to stretch the field for Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery. I am also intrigued to see how Heath Miller and Derek Moye can perform in the red zone as well. Roethlisberger and his pass-catchers should keep their heads on swivels tonight though, particularly with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings (six combined takeaways in 2013) roaming the secondary.
Chicago’s Offense vs. Pittsburgh’s Defense
If Pittsburgh’s defense is unable to show any proficiency when it comes to pocket-collapse and forcing turnovers, then it is going to be a long evening for “Steeler Nation.”
So far, the Steelers’ defense has only recorded one sack and ZERO turnovers during their first two games. Their run defense is inconsistent at best (119.5 rushing yards per game, T-24th), LaMarr Woodley continues to be a waste of $61.5 million on the outside, and Ryan Clark’s run as a serviceable free safety are finished. Did I mention that starters like Larry Foote and Cortez Allen will miss tonight’s game too? Because that will also have a negative impact as well.
Chicago’s offense is finally headed in the right direction, and Jay Cutler has piloted the Bears to wins in their first two games with his stellar play and by avoiding the big mistakes. The Bears are tied for fifth in the league with 27.5 points per game, and Cutler has the versatile Matt Forte leading the ground attack.
As far as the passing game is concerned Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks must deal with “Pro Bowler” Brandon Marshall, the large Alshon Jeffery, and the suddenly productive Martellus Bennett in the passing game. Bennett should figure in to be a huge weapon for the Bears, especially since Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham torched Pittsburgh last Monday night.
Chicago’s rebuilt offensive line has been steady during their first two games, and they have allowed only one sack through the first two games. Veteran center Roberto Garza anchors the made-over unit which consists of 2013 draft picks Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, and 2013 free agent signees Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson.
Zero pocket-collapse equates to Cutler not getting rattled. If Cutler is not rattled, then there will not be any turnovers forced by Pittsburgh’s defense tonight. If and when that happens, then this game will get ugly in a hurry.