Here we are, week 3. The Pirates are hopefully headed to the post-season and the Steelers are the team sucking in September. Oh the irony.
This week, the 0-2 Steelers take on the 2-0 Bears at home at Heinz field and are viewed as the underdog. When was the last time this happened?
On paper, there is nothing that tells me the Steelers will win this game. Not the anemic offense, the crappy O-line performance or the non-takeaway, but still decent defense. Nothing. Yes, the Steelers have made the playoffs three of the last four times they have started out 0-2. And now their backs are against the wall. The Steelers need this win. Not just for themselves, but for us, the fans. This week, the #FireHaley calls have become louder. I’m not yet on that bandwagon. I think there has been more of an execution problem than an actual play calling problem.
Sure, the Steelers have scored a total of 19 points in the first two games. They have only 2 rushing first downs. Felix Jones is said to be starting, and I hope that the explosiveness that he exhibited in the past pays off. To do so, he’s going to have to really fight to get in the gap, or create his own.
In addition, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders need to get more involved, but to get more involved, they have to get open. Neither are the biggest targets out there, and with the loss of Wallace - there has been an inability to pull defenders downfield. These two are jammed at the line and are having trouble getting separation. They both need to get physical. This is football. The Bears Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are not the fastest guys out there, they like to play zone vs press coverage, so beat them. Make them press you and beat them. The Steelers also need to involve rookie Markus Wheaton, if for nothing else than to draw a defender. Because if they don’t cover him and he’s open downfield…...The end.
Well, not really the end. Bears Pro-bowlers Julius Peppers and Henry Melton have been relatively quiet during the first two games. Peppers was fighting an illness last week and Melton is still recovering from a concussion he received in the pre-season. They both have heard about the Bears pass-rush, or lack thereof and I, for one, expect them to play better than the combined 5 tackles they registered through the first two games. Overall, the Bears defense has 6 takeaways and are tied for the worst 3rd down percentage at 51.9% or 14 for 27.
They want to play better, and what better way to do it than on Sunday night in front of a national audience where the Bears are 1-5 during Sunday night games with Jay Cutler under center.
Speaking of Cutler, while he led two fourth quarter rallies to win the first two games for the Bears, he was also part of the reason they needed to rally in the first place. He’s turned the ball over 4 times in the last 2 games. He has a decent passer rating of 93.2 and 97.2 respectively, but expect the Steelers defense to target that right side of the Bears O-line.
The Steelers defense is just one of two teams (Oakland) yet to create a turnover in 2013. They register one sack (Woodley) but the defense is still difficult to play against. Often you can’t tell who is coming at you and the Bears haven’t yet seen a 3-4 defense this season. Troy and Ryan Clark have been playing great - but they, more than anyone, recognize the need to create turnovers. Forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, pressure the QB, interceptions - no matter, just do it.
I think Ben said it best this week while talking to Bears beat reporters, “I’ve never started a season like this since I’ve been in Pittsburgh. It’s a challenge for us and one we’re not going to back down from.”
So, don’t. Go out there and give them hell.
My prediction: Steelers 13 - Bears 10
Yes, you read that right. I say they rally.