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Week 3 Game Preview: Bears-Steelers

The Bears try to bounce back from an ugly game against a perennial playoff team

Minnesota Vikings v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Trying to get the bad taste washed out from last Sunday’s ugly road loss won’t be easy but turning the page to the next opponent is a good way to start.

Unfortunately, the schedule isn’t going to give the Bears many breaks this year and Sunday will be no different. The Bears will host the 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers on the lakefront.

The Steelers are expected to be a playoff team poised to make a deep run once again. With players such as Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt it’s no surprise they are one of the NFL’s best teams.

The Bears are 7.5 point underdogs according to Bovada and after the team’s performance a week ago, that isn’t really surprising.

Pittsburgh Steelers

SB Nation site: Behind The Steel Curtain

Record: 2-0 (1st in AFC North)

Last week: 26-9 win over the Minnesota Vikings

Bears all-time record against: 17-8-1

Historical match ups: The Bears and Steelers are two of the more storied franchises in the history of the NFL. But since they have been in separate conferences since the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970 they haven’t played very often.

The Steelers, pre-Super Bowl era, were not a great franchise either. The Bears won the first 10 match ups between the squads by a combined score of 284-65 with three shutouts.

One of the more interesting games between the two came in 1995 when the 6-2 Bears hosted the 4-4 Steelers. In a back-and-forth game with some defensive plays (the QBs combined for five interceptions), the Steelers won a close game 37-34 in overtime.

A better result was the...

Last meeting: A 40-23 Bears win in Week 3 2014. I did not watch that game because I was returning from my honeymoon. I do remember stopping at every TV in O’Hare airport to see the score and try to get a feel for what was happening. Ashley, my wife of eight days, just wanted me to pick it up so we could get home.

The Bears held a 24-10 lead at halftime and the Steelers actually got within four points early in the fourth quarter but with a 27-23 lead, Jay Cutler and the Bears went on a nearly five minute 74-yard drive capped with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Earl Bennett.

On the next drive, Lance Briggs sacked Roethlisberger and he fumbled which was scooped up by Julius Peppers for a touchdown and then the Steelers turned it over on downs. In their final possession, Roethlisberger threw an interception to Chris Conte and the Bears came back to Chicago 3-0.

Injury report: The Steelers are dealing with as many issues as the Bears:

These players were were limited participants:

  • Bud Dupree (Shoulder)
  • Stephon Tuitt (Biceps)
  • T.J. Watt (Groin)

These players did not participate:

  • Marcus Gilbert (Hamstring)
  • Darrius Heyward-Bey (Illness)
  • Jesse James (Ankle)
  • Maurkice Pouncey (Illness)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (Non-injury related)

Finally, J.J. Wilcox was a full participant as he recovers from a concussion.

Offense: The Steelers rank 11th in the league in points (23.5) and 16th in yards (312.5).

The passing offense ranks 11th in passing yards per game (244) but 29th in rushing (68.5).

The passing attack is led by Roethlisberger and his weapons, which are plentiful. It starts with Antonio Brown, who already has 16 receptions and 244 yards but no touchdowns yet. Second on the team is tight end Jesse James who has 10 receptions, 68 yards and two touchdowns. Followed by Le’Veon Bell (7/19/0), Eli Rogers (6/54/0) and speed threat Martavis Bryant who is averaging 21 yards per catch (5/105/1). Second round pick JuJu Smith-Schuster is lurking with a touchdown to go with three catches for 16 yards.

The rushing attack is led by Bell, who missed all of training camp and offseason activities while trying to get a new contract. He’s come back rusty, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry (37/119/0). He’s spelled by James Conner (5/20/0).

Defense: The Steelers, much like the Bears, are known for their great defenses and running backs and this year’s squad is shaping up to fit with the defensive history.

The Steelers rank third overall in yards per game allowing 237 and rank sixth in points allowed per game with 13.5. They are allowing 163 passing yards per game, good for fifth in the league and eighth against the run, allowing 74 yards per game, a 3.3 average and two TDs. Opposing QBs have one TD, one INT and a 73.7 rating against them.

In just two games the Steelers have racked up nine sacks, good for the second most in the league, tied with Kansas City. Anthony Chickillo and T.J. Watt each have two while Vince Williams, Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, Vince Williams, Joe Haden and Javon Hargrove each have one.

Watt has the squad’s only INT so far but Haden, Artie Burns and veteran William Gay are holding down the defensive backfield.

Key match ups: The offensive line is going to have to come up big here to keep Mike Glennon upright and comfortable in the pocket. With his immobility being an issue and the line in front of him dealing with a number of injuries, this is going to be a huge match up.

If the offensive line can hold its own and open some running lanes, the Bears can control the clock and slow the game down.

On defense, it’s going to be about the secondary controlling Antonio Brown and bottling up Le’Veon Bell. While Bell hasn’t had a big game yet as he works his way back into a rhythm after a long offseason away, he is too good of a player to ignore. The Bears have done all right against opposing backs, allowing 90.5 yards per game and two touchdowns.

What to watch for: The Markus Wheaton revenge game? He and Kendall Wright are about all the Bears have in their receiving corps, if they can stretch the field at all it would keep the Steelers from just stacking the box and blitzing against Glennon.

For the defense it will be about staying in position and maintaining discipline against the Steelers’ many weapons. Will Leonard Floyd show up? How about week one Akiem Hicks? Those are the players the Bears need to see more from.

Key stats: The Bears have two passing plays of 20+ yards, tied with the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans for the second-least in the league behind Tampa Bay, who has played one game.

The Bears have won the last two games against the Steelers.

The Bears have lost their last three home games.


What do you think the Bears need to do in order to win Sunday?