I'm saving that Bengals game on my DVR for the next time I Ludovico technique myself as a punishment for my preseason optimism concerning a team that leads only Jacksonville in total offensive yardage after 2 games. Here's to hoping I don't have to add to the old self-retribution video canon.
The Bears will come into town looking for a panicking, arthritic push-over. Here are some points to ponder as the Black and Gold try to put all the talk to bed and -- what's it called?, oh ya -- win a game:
0-2 vs. 2-0
So far, Jay Cutler is 2-for-2 in 4th quarter comebacks this year. He may not get a chance this Sunday when the Bears come to Heinz. Probably because Chicago isn't going to let the Steelers keep it close though 3 quarters. The Bears defense is probably one of the best the Steelers will face this year -- not good news for a team that's been averaging 9.5 points a game so far. The Bears beat a Bengals team that just took the Steelers by 10, and a Vikings team that only kept it close by way of a kickoff return touchdown and the Steelers' defensive Achilles' Heel -- turnovers. If you can't remember, that's when your team somehow takes the ball from the other team. I know, I had to look it up too. Cutler looks pretty comfy in Marc Trestman's West Coast offense, but he's also thrown 3 picks and fumbled a ball that was returned for a score. There is a slight hint of a possible chance that perhaps Pittsburgh gets a turnover in this game, maybe. But they'll have to win the GA/TA battle to have a chance, and that probably means not turning the ball over themselves -- not even once.
The Bears have won because they have an effective offense and a stout D. A combo only rivaled by the Pizzeria Pretzel Combo (and it's likely to have the same available nutritional value...).
The Steelers have lost both of their games despite turning in solid defensive performances. Yes, they could've been better, but the offense should be able to score more than an average of 18 points a game (average points allowed). Only 5 teams were inept enough to fall short of that mark in 2012.
THE BEARS O-LINE
The Bears have an excellent offensive line. They've only allowed one sack in 2 games, and that was to Mr. Jack-in-the-Box himself, Jared Allen. On the other hand, their line faired about as well on the ground against Cinci as the now infamous Steelers line did. But they bounced back to the tune of 4.7 YPC as a team when Minnesota came to town last weekend. They could prove to be quite a challenge for a Pitt D that has exactly one sack as a unit.
ROETHLISBERGER's SHODDY MONDAY NIGHT & SUNDAY NIGHT CONJECTURE
Ben Roethlisberger had one of the worst games of his career, but the consistent overthrows were highly preferable to the passes he used to force to covered wideouts. This damage-limiting technique has been made famous by Joe Flacco. Not the best model for effectiveness if you subtract the insane, out-of-body Playoff run by Flacco or if you sever all means of communication with the dudes that're supposed to catch the balls -- well, the ones that are actually pass attempts rather than semi-harmless throwaways. Bergy couldn't help himself for the whole game though, as evidenced by his frustrated bullet to a double-covered Jerricho Cotchery that effectively ended the game. He can't be blamed in full for trying to fit the ball into tight, tight, tight windows. Most of the completions he was able to manage were only possible by way of surgical laserbeams into openings the size of a trike tire. And he had to scramble for his life to get those passes off -- which he did like no one else could have. He had a bad game, but it would've been worse if he was more of an emotional child like Philip Rivers or a generally less accurate QB like, well, Flacco. He's been trending in the wrong direction, but is that predominantly on him or the system? Like most things, it's probably a little of both.
The line only gave up 2 sacks against a strong Cinci D-line. That could be useful against Julius Peppers & co. But things could get pretty nasty for Roethlisberger if Mike Adams continues to simply wipe his sweaty hands on pass rushers' jerseys as they blow by him. If Ben is allowed to play more to his strengths in the game plan and the receivers can get open on crossing patterns to exploit Chicago's linebackers in coverage, we could see a marked improvement in the passing game. Of course, it's going to be hard not to improve on Monday's night's version of the passing game.
HIS NAME WAS DAVID PAULSON
I believe it still is, but he may consider changing it after Monday Night. Paulson had two nice catches in wide open space, but he may not warrant a roster spot after showing his complete ineptitude in ball security and blocking in any capacity. He and Mike Adams were utterly put to shame on the Steelers first drive of the second half when Michael Johnson ran right past them to stuff Redman at the line. Paulson also thoroughly botched his assignment on an already dead-in-the-water end around to Cotch. The pulling tight end ignored the patient backfield penetration of Carlos Dunlap and headed straight for a cornerback at the sideline. Cotchery lost 5 yards and Paulson presumably lost future playing time. If he gets on the field this week, let's hope he plays about 20 times better with a self-generated chip on his shoulder. If he doesn't, well I'll let Chuck Palahniuk do the talking:
In death (or getting benched), we have a name...
THE LEAGUE's PERCEPTION OF IKE & HOW TO STOP THE BEARS
Some Steelers fans won't know what they got 'til Ike's gone. Jon Gruden is tough to listen to most of the time, and he overpraises every player he talks about...BUT, he's usually right and he's the one of the better announcers MNF has had in terms of actually breaking down the schemes being utilized and why so and so is the GREATEST PLAYER HE'S EVER SEEN. And these are the best players known to man, so it's not really that hyperbolic. He was at it again during this game, calling the Steelers d-backs "the best." Clearly, that's an overstatement, but no other secondary in history has ever had a Troy Polamalu. And Ike Taylor is really, really, really, really, really good. He held the second-most unstoppable receiver on the planet to 6 catches for 41 yards. ON AN ISLAND. The league respects Ike Taylor. And even though he cannot catch anything, it's good to spend some time remembering the towering skill of an unsung badass.
Brandon Marshall is much more physical than A.J. Green and may be more of a challenge for Ike to shut down single-handedly. One or two broken tackles could be the difference. But Taylor had a lot more success against Green than the Bears' celebrated corners had and Taylor has had success against big, physical wideouts in the past. Should be fun to watch two of the best get after it.
Jay Cutler and Martellus Bennett have developed a pretty explosive red zone chemistry. We're talking Walter White-fulminated mercury-type chemistry. 3 TDs in 2 games, including the game-winning score last week. If Taylor has success against Marshall or not, look for these two inside the 20.
If Gio Bernard can gash the Steelers, what's Matt Forte going to do?
Apparently, Troy is planning on buzzing off the comet-tail. But he'll still be "locked" up for this one. So maybe he can blanket Forte (and Cutler) coming out of the backfield.
THE STEELERS OFFENSIVE "GAMEPLAN"
Somehow the 2.8 YPC by Steeler backs seemed 10 times better than the 2.1 YPC they managed by default against theTitans. There have been some rumblings about Felix Jones' lack of playing time, and that murmuring seems justified after Jones stretched 10 carries into 37 yards. But it won't matter much if it's Redman, Dwyer, Jones (or even the desperately pedestaled Le'Veon Bell) running behind this offensive line. It's hard to even call these guys "running backs" since none of them has gotten to run full speed during a game yet. They typically just crash into the pile due to an abject lack of daylight where the lanes should be. Until that changes, "ball carrier" is the only fair way to reference them -- if only to be an anally spiteful semantician in the face of such a failure.
The no-huddle was easily the offense's most effective strategy. Which leads you to believe Ben is more comfortable drawing up plays on the front of his jersey than running Haley's scheme. It's not a unit devoid of talent, and the pass blocking was no worse in Week 2 than it has been in recent years. The offensive improvisation was rather apparent when all those passes fell to the ground untouched. And that seems to point directly to the much-hypothesized rift between OC & QB.
Haley will get most of the blame, followed by Ben and Tomlin. And that's the way it should be. But don't allow yourself to become an apologist for Haley just to exorcise the contrarian in you. He isn't good at this. And he isn't getting paid $100MM, so fair or not, he's the one that will lose his job. Not Roethlisberger.
If the Steelers can expose Chicago's linebackers (like they were trying to do in Cincinnati), they my be able to move the ball enough to score the ≈20 points they'll probably need to win. The outside zone is supposed to be put to use more often, but Haley and Tomlin can't really think they'll just magically be able to run this week.
If you missed the game Monday night, you've done yourself a favor. Mike Golic (Sr.) recently said Pittsburgh would finish 3-13 this year if they can't improve on the O-line. No matter what his motives were in saying so, he's probably not that far off. Regardless of how well the defense limits their opponents' yardage, an NFL team can't win 4 games against their own practice squad if they can't score more than 10 points every 60 minutes. We're spoiled as Steeler fans. Most teams have to stomach this sort of thing every couple of years.
That doesn't make it any easier to watch. But if the Steelers want to do something about that, they could start by having all 11 guys agree to run the same plays.
The Steelers are trying to reconcile their failures on a short and dramatic week. It doesn't seem like they are in good shape for this one.
BEARS 24, STEELERS 13
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