There is no need to dwell on the Bears performance last week. It is best to pour concrete on that game and throw it in the south branch of the Chicago River. Normally, I would say that coming back home to Soldier Field is just what the doctor ordered. However, the Bears are a measly 4-17 at home during John Fox’s tenure in Chicago. A home field advantage, this is not. I can already see the articles written on Monday about the amount of no-shows in the stadium.
Frankly, this is team that is playing below their capabilities. This isn’t the place to get into that discussion, but it is amplified by the fact that the Steelers are a really good football team. This game just seems to have cloud hanging over it the way only a city known for its manufacturing practices can provide.
On paper, this seems to be a poor matchup for a Bears team that is starting to get healthier but hasn’t quite hit its stride yet. Could the Bears defense put up a wall of its own and contain another high-octane offense or will they break under the pressure of a woefully bad offense yet again?
What to Watch For
On offense, this team needs to try something different. Clearly running the ball and throwing 3 yards is not the answer. With the return of Markus Wheaton, might we see the Bears finally attempt more than one pass per game down field?
The tight ends need to get involved as well. This offense is pitifully predictable right now. I am not sure that the issue is the receivers as they do appear to be open. The issue is that Mike Glennon reads low-to-high, so perhaps Dowell Loggains needs to open up the deeper passing plays and force Glennon to throw deep. Honestly, it can’t hurt to take a few more deep shots this week.
Defensively, the Bears will have to find a way to take the ball away. I fear that the offense is not going to score enough points to be competitive with the Steelers. Prince Amukamara is back and while turnovers are not his specialty, he does get his hands on passes. Perhaps a tip to Eddie Jackson or Quintin Demps is in the cards this week?
The Steelers tend to play down to their level of competition and it is possible that they try to establish the running game early in order to get a quick win and get back to Pittsburgh. If that is the case, the defensive line will continue to have to step up and stop the run. I think the Bears get the job done here and Le’Veon Bell continues his early season struggles.
Who to Watch
Mike Glennon: Can Glennon bounce back from his 3 turnover performance against the Bucs? He is going to need to if this game is going to be anything more than a laugher. The deep passing game will get a shot in the arm with Wheaton returning but Glennon still needs to get him the ball. Don’t be surprised to see the focal point be the tight ends and the underneath passing game to Kendall Wright — who continues to be the best receiver on the Bears roster.
Jordan Howard: Howard really needs to get on track. Against Atlanta, I thought that he just had a poor game as far as his decision-making and vision was concerned. Last week though, that was some shoddy offensive line play in front of him and that is going to need to change. This team cannot be competitive without Howard running the ball. I want to see a better mix of run and pass too. Not just the total plays called — obviously the score dictated much of that last week — but also mixing up the down and distance calls. The Bears ran the ball on first down almost every time in the first half, it is too predictable. Kyle Long will make his triumphant return as well, so hopefully he gives the running game a bit of a boost, something needs to change here.
Prince Amukamara: This will be his first game action in a Bears uniform. Despite his brittle physique and lack of ability to catch footballs, Amukamara is a very good coverage cornerback. He stood out in training camp and again in the preseason. With Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, the Bears are facing their third consecutive dynamic duo. Prince will need to hop in his little red corvette if he is going to keep up with those two and party like it’s 1999, otherwise, we will know what it sounds like when doves cry.
Danny Trevathan and Christian Jones: Trevathan was tasked with the defensive play calls once Nick Kwiatkoski left last week with a pectoral injury. It wasn’t his first rodeo but it will be something to keep an eye on. Christian Jones will get his first start of the season after having a very good camp and preseason. It feels like Jones has been here forever but could this finally be the year where he combines the mental aspects of the game with his physical gifts?
Keys to the Game
The Play-Action Passing Game: As I have stated previously “the running game will likely be one of the keys for most of the season.” That is very true and doesn’t necessarily change here. After all, the play-action game is predicated upon the defense believing that you are going to run the ball. Even Loggains has eluded to the fact that the short-passing attack is inviting extra defenders into the box. This will need to change to soften the middle of defense up to be able to get the ground game rolling.
The Pass Rush: I refuse to change this key until I actually see this unit show up. The Bears have just 4 sacks on the season and have not produced enough pressure otherwise to be truly effective. This team needs turnovers and needs them badly. The secondaries that tend to produce the most turnovers are the ones with a good front that provides pressure. Ben Roethlisberger is difficult to bring down, as Winston was last week, but the defense never really got to Winston. They need to at least get in Roethlisberger’s face and make him force throws.
The X-Factor: The return of Markus Wheaton. Last week was supposed to be the “Mike Glennon Revenge Game.” But maybe there could be a little revenge this week in the form of Wheaton. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think that he is a elite or great, heck, even all the good. But what Wheaton does well is catches the deep ball. That has to be the game plan if the Bears are going to win. They need a few play-action knock out blow attempts early in the game or this will get ugly quickly.