By Bryan Dietzler
After a terrible 29-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, the 0-2 Chicago Bears will come back to Chicago to host the 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh, after a slow start to the season in Week One against the Cleveland Browns finally got something going in Week Two and defeated the Minnesota Vikings 26-9.
The Bears offense has been struggling mightily in the two games they have played, especially last Sunday and seem to have no solution for the problems they have on offense. While they found some rhythm in Week One and were able to play a close game against the Falcons, they were not able to get anything going against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Their offense was, in a word, “futile.”
Now they host a team that can either put up 40 points on them in a heartbeat or flat out lose the game. It will depend on which Pittsburgh Steelers team shows up.
Can the Bears take advantage of Pittsburgh should the suffer a lapse and not play well? Pittsburgh has struggled in games they are supposed to win before, and they might do it against the Bears.
The offense will remain under the control of quarterback Mike Glennon for this game and that is good and bad. It’s good because the Bears don’t want to go to option two and start rookie Mitchell Trubisky. It’s still too soon to start him and playing him against Pittsburgh’s defense might not only hurt him but could cause problems in his development.
The Bears wide receiving corps should be the same heading into Sunday with no standout player to step up and be their number one. Kendall Wright was effective last week but does not have the speed to stretch the defense. Markus Wheaton might be back but he’s rusty and will have to shake that rust off to be effective.
Chicago’s lack of talent at the receiver position is the biggest issue they have on offense. But, for that group, their biggest problem has been dropped passes.
Drops have plagued the Bears since last season and it’s more than just the usual suspects (Josh Bellamy is the guiltiest) who are dropping passes this season. Every wide receiver and even the tight ends (Zach Miller anyone?) have had their hand in dropping passes, especially at critical moments.
It’s important to point out dropped passes and the need to clean those up. They have contributed directly to losses for the Bears in the past, so they need a solution, desperately.
The Steelers’ defense is ranked fifth against the pass allowing just 163 yards per game. Chicago’s passing offense is gaining 233 yards on average which is 15th in the NFL.
But they will be running into the buzz saw that is the Steeler’s pass defense.
The Steelers will get after the not so mobile Glennon and force him to make mistakes. They will sack him and they will rattle him. Can he handle that kind of pressure?
If Chicago’s pass protection continues to struggle as it has in the first two games, Glennon will end up on the ground often. The Bears must do something to protect him and fight the Steeler’s pass rush. Getting Kyle Long back would be a great way to help keep Glennon clean and there is a change that he might be back this Sunday.
However, Josh Sitton continues to miss practice and it’s difficult to say if he will be available for the game. If he’s out and Long is too then, there will be a lot of struggling to protect Glennon this Sunday. (At press time it’s been determined Sitton will be out for this game).
Perhaps they can keep the heat off Glennon by getting their ground game going. But even Chicago’s usually strong rushing attack struggled last week against Tampa.
So far this year, the Bears are averaging 72.5 yards per game on the ground which is good for a low 26th in the league.
For a team that dominated rushing the ball in 2016, this is not a good start to the season.
The Pittsburgh defense is allowing teams to rush for 74.0 yards per game which makes the Steeler’s defense the NFL’s eighth-ranked rushing defense. If the numbers are any indication, the Bears will not be able to run or pass the ball on Sunday.
The Bears offense may get stuck in neutral.
Scoring against the Steelers’ defense will also be difficult and scoring has been a problem for the Bears. While the Steelers are allowing just 13.5 points per game, the Bears are scoring just 12 points a game.
It sounds like a perfect storm for the Bears.
So how can the Bears win this game? They must play good defense and keep the Steeler’s playmakers locked down. Pittsburgh has a lot of talent on offense with guys like Antonio Brown and Le’Von Bell. Martavius Bryant had a nice game last week and provides Pittsburgh with another viable option in the passing game.
With so much talent, what can Chicago’s defense possibly do to help them win?
The Steeler’s offense is averaging 312.5 yards per game which is good for 16th in the NFL. Chicago’s defense is giving up 341.5 yards through two games this year which is 25th.
The Bears have been allowing teams to pass for an average of 251 yards per game which is 24th in the league and rush for 90. 5 yards in a game which is 15th.
The Steelers are gaining an average of 244 yards through the air in a game which is good for 10th in the NFL. Bell and the other running backs in Pittsburgh are getting an average of 68.5 yards per game on the ground. That is ranked 29th, so that’s just about last in the league.
What do the numbers mean?
Chicago may be able to slow the Steeler’s rushing attack and force them to throw the ball. If they do that, then they need to get pressure on Pittsburgh’s quarterback.
Getting a lot of pass pressure against Ben Roethlisberger would do wonders for the Bears. Their top pass rushing playmakers need to step up and get pressure to keep Pittsburgh’s passing game from ripping the Bears’ secondary apart. It’s that simple.
This can’t be the game that Bell breaks out, rushes for 200 yards and embarrasses Chicago’s defense. We have seen that happen before. This should also not be the game Roethlisberger throws for 400 plus yards which is something he often does.
This can’t be “that” game.
Guys like Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd need to step it up. Hicks has shown us that he can be a difference maker. Floyd needs to follow suit and do the same thing. Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee, and Willie Young needs to ratchet things up and get to the quarterback. Everyone needs to do their part and help the defense “win” this game.
The linebackers have taken two huge hits so far and their depth has been tested. Losing Jerrell Freeman and “do it all” backup Nick Kwiatkoski hurts. Now, the guys behind and around them need to step up. Danny Trevathan needs to limit the mistakes and play lights out. He needs to lead the charge to contain Bell and not let him get into the open field.
The linebackers need to keep tight end Jesse James in check as well.
What about the secondary? Poor tackling, choppy coverage and missed opportunities have plagued them through two games. They will face two very tough wide receivers in Brown and Bryant. The Bears cannot allow them to run rampant. Brown can turn the shortest catch into a long one and if you double team Brown, Bryant, when healthy, can give you the problems Brown can.
The cornerbacks and safeties need to lock them down.
The Bears defense would have to be perfect on Sunday and while they might not be able to achieve perfection, close may be good enough.
But unfortunately, the offense will probably let them down and be the reason they will lose this game. I hate to say that but the offense is not built to win yet. Chicago’s offense has trouble at every position and has shown, in two games, that they don’t have a lot of talent on that side of the ball.
It’s sad but true.
But there is talent on defense and if they can step up, take hold and keep the Steelers from dominating the game Chicago will have a shot at winning. If their offense limits its mistakes and gets the ground game going, they can control the ball and give the defense time to rest. That will help the Bears keep it close.
A refreshed Chicago defense is a good defense and if they can keep Pittsburgh’s offense from running the table, the Bears might win this game.
Might, win this game.
I may get laughed off the internet for saying this but I think the game this Sunday will be close. Chicago will put forth their best effort but fall just short. Consider this to be another game like the Atlanta game where is very close but Chicago won’t be able to do enough to win in the end.
Score Prediction: Pittsburgh 24 Chicago 16