1. The Steelers have had a bit of a roller coaster season, with an impressive first week win against the Bills, followed by 3 down weeks and now a 3 week resurgence. What do you think has gone into this roller coaster, and do you think they might be ready for a drop that the Bears can take advantage of?
The difference between the fast start, the lull, and the resurgence has been a combination of factors. The biggest would be the offensive line starting to finally gel. The Steelers have an entirely new offensive line, and it has taken them time to start to put the pieces together. With them now starting to play at a higher level, it has boosted the run game as well as awarded Ben Roethlisberger the time to move the ball through the air. Most importantly, the Steelers have become more of a balanced offense between the run and pass. On top of the offensive line, the Steelers dealt with several key injuries on defense during the 3-game losing streak. Groin injuries have been a constant issue, and kept players like Devin Bush, T.J. Watt and others out of the lineup during the early skid. The defense is relatively healthy now, and they are playing up to the standard most expect. If these trends continue, the Steelers will be a tough team to beat.
2. It always seems like Big Ben is going to retire but somehow he never does. He doesn’t strike me as the type who prioritizes longevity or health in general. Do you think this is finally his last season? Are you looking forward to the quest to find a replacement?
To be honest, I don’t even know if Roethlisberger has decided what his future holds. The Steelers have the option of bringing him back with voidable years in his contract, but I honestly believe it all depends how he finishes the 2021 season. If he and the offense get hot and make a run, I could see him wanting to come back. Would the Steelers want him to come back? That’s a different story altogether. As for the quest for a replacement, I am just going to enjoy the games remaining with No. 7 at quarterback until he finally calls it a career. It has been a great ride since he was drafted in 2004, and the thought of another decade of questionable quarterback play is not something I am looking forward to. The Steelers experienced a huge lull between Bradshaw and Ben, and the hope is the next quarterback, whoever that is, doesn’t take as long to find.
3. Mike Tomlin is one of the longest tenured and most respected coaches in the league. What’s that like? Do fans still call for him to be fired every year like we do in Chicago?
There is always a “Fire Tomlin” contingent of the fan base, but the vast majority love the fact the Steelers have only had three head coaches since 1969. Tomlin is a tremendous coach and motivator, but it isn’t as if he is perfect. He struggles in-game with time management and questionable decisions (see Week 8 fake field goal which knocked kicker Chris Boswell out of the game with a concussion), but for what he lacks in-game he makes up for in his ability to get teams ready to play football. He is one of the few coaches in the NFL who can get grown men to buy into the culture that is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
4. What’s the best way to attack the Steelers defense? I promise not to tell Bill Lazor.
The best way to attack the Steelers’ defense is to establish the run. If you can establish the run, and keep the offense in manageable down and distances you can methodically move the ball down the field. The difficult part is not only executing those running plays, but finishing drives. The Steelers are very stingy in the red-zone, and when the field shortens the game gets more difficult. Without sugar coating it, when healthy the Steelers’ defense is a top tier unit. It is tough sledding for any running team, as the Browns saw first-hand in Week 8. The Bears love to lean on the run, so it will be interesting to see who wins this battle of the trenches on Monday Night Football.
5. Who’s cheering at the end of this game, Steely (McBeam) or Staley (Da Bear)?
With the Steelers being at home, and in prime time, I think they avoid the let down game most are considering. The Steelers haven’t beaten the Bears since the 2005 snow game when Jerome Bettis ran over Brian Urlacher for a legendary touchdown. I think Najee Harris shows out on national television like “The Bus” did on more than one occasion.
I’ll take the Steelers 27-13
Jeff seems like a nice enough guy, and generally well-informed about his team, but he must have smoked Roethlisburgers from one too many steel pipes if he thinks the Chicago Bears are going to lose by two touchdowns.