With the disappointment of week 1 finally behind us... after days of endless discussion, it's time to turn our attention to our next opponent: the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Week 1 Recap
The Steelers kicked off the 2009 season with a very gutsy and grindy 13-10 win in OT vs a really tough Titans team on prime time last Thursday night. Pittsburgh's O-line struggled in both phases of the game. The run attack produced just 36 yards (1.6 per carry), and they allowed constant pressure on Big Ben throughout the evening, as he was sacked 4 times and hit 8 other times. All the pressure couldn't contain Ben however, as the Steelers eventually abandoned the run game and racked up 363 yards in the air, while the Titans kept stacking the box. The game could've been won in the final minute of regulation, but Hines Ward fumbled inside the 5 to help the Titans get to overtime.
The Bears had the un-enviable task of opening up the season in Green Bay on Sunday night with a 21-15 loss. They were the NFL's guinea pigs, facing Dom Capers' new defense for the first time. It was very evident that the Bears offense was ill-prepared for what Capers had in store for them. Certain members of the O-line were confused all night long on where the pass rush was coming from, and even Jay Cutler audibled right into the Packers play calls on a handful of occasions. The offense looked out of sync all night, and wasted red zone opportunities. However, the Bears defense made it a pretty difficult night for the Pack, as Rod Marinelli's front 4 provided constant pressure on Aaron Rodgers. But, the defense couldn't overcome Cutler's 4 INTs, and they allowed the winning score with under 2 minutes remaining.
- 28-15: The Steelers road record since 2004 (Big Ben's rookie year).
- 4: The number of times both Big Ben and Aaron Rodgers were sacked last week.
- 106.7: Jay Cutler's QB rating the last time he played the Steelers in 2007, when he beat them 31-28 at home.
- 9: The number of days the Steelers had to prepare for Sunday's game, after playing last Thursday.
When the Steelers have the ball.
With the run game struggling mightily last week, the Steelers may try to get it going early vs a Bears defense that suddenly looks very different without LBs Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa. Willie Parker will start things off, but Rashard Mendhenhall and Mewelde Moore will be involved as well. Once the Steelers go to the air, they'll challenge a Bears secondary that's finally overcoming some injuries. A healthy Charles Tillman and Zachary Bowman will have the task of containing Super Bowl MVPs Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, who both had excellent performances in the season opener.
The key matchup: LDE Adewale Ogunleye vs RT Willie Colon
Ogunleye is coming off a tremendous opening night in Green Bay, where he was virtually a one man wrecking crew... in a contract year. Colon's a traffic cop in comparison, he could be waving O-Gun through all afternoon.
The X factor on offense for the Steelers: TE Heath Miller
Good TEs always seem to find the soft spot in the Cover 2 zones... and Miller's a good one.
When the Bears have the ball.
Last week was horrendous. But, the good news is... the Bears actually have film of the Pittsburgh defense, and they now have a game under their belts in which they faced tough road conditions and a 3-4 defense. Like Pittsburgh, the Bears ground game struggled last week. So, look for the Bears to be committed to running the ball with Matt Forte in the early going, and challenge the Steelers without Polamalu flying around like superman. Earl Bennett got 13 targets from Cutler last week, and that trend will likely continue, with Devin Hester and Johnny Knox serving as the deep threats. Greg Olsen only caught 1 pass last week, as Dom Capers schemed to shut him down and force the ball into the hands of others. The Bears must get Olsen and fellow TE Kellen Davis (6'7") involved to be successful.
The key matchup: LG Frank Omiyale vs Pittsburgh linebackers
Steelers RT Willie Colon may have been a traffic cop last week, but Omiyale was a human turnstyle. He simply didn't know where the rush was coming from until it was too late... a theme that could continue when he faces Dick LeBeau's 3-4 front.
The X Factor on offense for the Bears: WR Devin Aromashodu
One of Cutler's favorite targets in training camp should be in action on Sunday, after missing the opener. Aromashodu is the biggest of the Bears WRs (6'2" 200), and could be a factor if he's put on the field ahead of the blazing, but confused Johnny Knox.