As the 2-0 Chicago Bears travel for the first time this season to face the struggling 0-2 Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night in the Steel City, here are five keys to look for as the Bears attempt to remain unbeaten.
1. Keep Jay Cutler upright….The Bears offensive line has been a pleasant surpirse through the seasons’s first few weeks. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod has anchored the left side, while rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills have held their own on the right side. Despite their 0-2 record, Pittsburgh’s defense generally hasn’t been the issue. Pittsburgh has only surrendered 19 points through two games. Longtime Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau no doubt has something up his sleeve to give the Bears off-balance.
2. Generate a pass rush…Defensive lineman Henry Melton and Julius Peppers have been “MIA” thus far, a hot topic amongst the media and sports talkers. While both can be given a pass for the first two weeks while rounding back into shape and overcoming injuries, the pressure will be on for these high-priced d-lineman to start to make an impact. Pittsburgh’s retooled offensive line is vulnerable, and the Bears should be able to get some push. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is as tough as they come in terms of standing in the pocket and staying alive, but may not be as nimble as he once was. The Pittsburgh offense lacks weapons, so consistent pressure would bode well for the Bears.
3. Take the crowd out of the game…If the Bears can jump out ahead, doubt may begin to creep into not only the Steelers players, but their fans as well. An 0-2 start is already causing panic among the Steelers faithful, and if the Bears can neutralize the home crowd by playing well, it gives them a huge advantage late in the contest.
4. Establish the ground game…RB Matt Forte appears quicker and more explosive, but has yet to crack the 100-yard mark. A big night by Forte could keep the clock moving and limit the opportunities Pittsburgh could have. It also would prevent the Bears from being forced into third and long situations which would play into the Steelers defense’s hands.
5. Limit the turnovers…The Bears controlled last week’s game against Minnesota until Jay Cutler’s second quarter misues, a fumble that Vikings DE Brian Robison returned 61 yards for a touchdown, then the interception in the endzone on a subsequent Bears drive down to the Pittsburgh goaline. Turnovers have a way of evening the most lopsided affairs, so ball security appears to be a important topic.
Paw Prints: Bears CB Charles Tillman is questionable for Sunday night’s game. He’s been hobbled by a sore knee and missed practice time throughout the week…The Bears hold a 20-7-1 all-time mark against the Steelers. This will be the clubs first meeting in prime time….According to research from the Elias Sports Bureau, the Bears two fourth quarter comebacks to begin the year are just the second time the franchise has been able to rally from late deficits to win the first two contests. The 1971 Bears squad also turned the trick, overcoming fourth quarter leads by Pittsburgh and Minnesota to post victories…QB Jay Cutler became the Bears franchise leader in attempts and completions….RB Matt Forte’s yardage ranks him as the fourth all-time leading rusher in franchise history. Forte’s 5,467 yards trail Rick Casares, Neal Anderson, and the great Walter Payton.