As though their start has not been bad enough, an 0-3 start for the Steelers would be disastrous to any attempts to get back to the playoffs.
According to Eric Matuszewski of Bloomberg, only 8.8 percent of teams that began the season 0-2 have made the playoffs since 2002. That number drops to just 8 percent since the NFL adopted the 12-team playoff format in 1990.
The odds may not be in the Steelers’ favor, but they are not giving up. The veterans are taking charge as they try to right the ship and contend in 2013.
Ike Taylor told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com that it would take more than just talking to the young players to get the team back on track.
“We can’t talk, we have to show them,” said Taylor. “That has been the message. We can talk all day until our faces turns blue. We have to actually show these guys.”
Taylor and his fellow veterans on the defense have done a solid job in showing their teammates the "Steelers' way."
Things have not gone quite as well for the offense as they have scored just 9.5 points per game, which ranks 30th in the league. They will have an opportunity to make some strides against a Bears defense that allows 25.5 points per game.
For the Steelers to get their first win of the season, they will need another solid performance from the defense, but more importantly, production from the offense.
Here are three key matchups to watch as the Steelers attempt to get in the win column against the Bears.
Ike Taylor vs. Brandon Marshall
Over the past five seasons, Pro Football Focus has analyzed the top cornerbacks for their ability in coverage and defending the run. Ike Taylor did not make the top 10 in either category.
That does not mean that he lacks value for the Steelers.
On a weekly basis, Dick LeBeau trusts his top cornerback to shadow the opponent’s best receiver. More often than not, Taylor gets the job done.
Last week, Taylor matched up against arguably the top wide receiver in the game and held him in check.
He did it by playing a physical game against A.J. Green.
Taylor got his hands on Green and did a solid job tackling him, preventing against any yards after the catch. On the night, Green had six receptions for 41 yards on 14 targets. His long reception was only ten yards.
Who will win the battle between Ike Taylor and Brandon Marshall?
Without a big play from the Cincinnatis Bengals offense, the Steelers were able to remain competitive. On a typical Sunday (or Monday), the offense scoring at least 20 points should not be a problem.
Taylor will need a similar effort against another talented receiver as he will have to shadow the 6’4” Brandon Marshall.
These two last met in 2010 and Taylor held Marshall to five receptions for 57 yards. At that time, Marshall told Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com that he overlooked Taylor.
He’s one of the best in the business. It seems like he’s getting better as he ages. I remember a few years ago playing against him in Miami. I disrespected him a little bit. I didn’t do my film study and I got out there and he did some things that really put me in a tough spot. So I’ve been going back to my Denver days and my Miami days just watching him and seeing how he played me, watching a lot of film because I have a lot of respect for this guy and no longer will I overlook him.
Marshall has been terrific so far for the Bears as he leads the team with 15 receptions and 217 yards. He has two touchdowns as well.
At 6'2", Taylor has the size to match up well against Marshall as well as the speed to prevent against any deep routes. He will have to play physical against Marshall to disrupt patterns and his timing with Jay Cutler.
With Taylor capable of defending Marshall on his own, the Steelers can focus their defensive attention elsewhere. Taylor limited Green last week and will need a similar game this week against Marshall.
Mike Adams vs. Julius Peppers
The early returns for Mike Adams at left tackle have not been encouraging. He has had problems defending the pass rush and has been credited with a half-sack by STATS LLC.
Adams really struggled against the Bengals, earning a -4.6 grade from Pro Football Focus. The website indicated that Michael Johnson had six quarterback pressures against Adams.
"Good pass protection there by Mike Adams." - John Gruden *runs clip of Adams getting pushed into Roethlisberger*— Alessandro Miglio (@AlexMiglio) September 17, 2013
Michael Johnson is whipping Mike Adams— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) September 17, 2013
According to @PFF, Marcus Gilbert had highest grade of any O-lineman. Mike Adams the worst, no sacks allowed but 4 hurries and 2 hits on Ben— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) September 17, 2013
Things will not get any easier for Adams in Week 3 as he matches up against Julius Peppers.
Peppers picked up 30.5 sacks in his first three years in Chicago, but has been shut out this season. That could change as he goes up against Adams.
Lance Briggs said he's not worried about Julius Peppers, who hasn't had a sack in 2 games. After all, it is only 2 games. He'll be fine.— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) September 16, 2013
It will be an interesting battle as both players stand tall at 6'7", so neither man has an advantage in terms of leverage. Peppers no longer has the speed that he did early in his career, which is something he has struggled with.
Adams will need to control Peppers at the point of attack if he is going to prevent pressure on Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger will need plenty of time to throw this week as he recognized that his receivers may struggle to get open, via Steelers.com:
They aren’t the biggest guys in the world, so it’s easy for defensive backs to hold them, push them and arm-bar them, and they aren’t getting the calls. So it’s tough. They just need to keep fighting through those things. I know they will do that. They take pride in their work, and they work hard at it. We are going to spend some extra time today to make sure we can work through those issues.
While they work through those issues, Adams will need to do his part to provide Roethlisberger with enough time to scan the field and get his passes off.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Charles Tillman
In two weeks, the Steelers already have four turnovers and Roethlisberger is responsible for two of them.
He has two interceptions and faces a tough Bears secondary led by Charles Tillman.
The 6’2” Tillman has a distinct size advantage over the Steelers’ receivers and has done an excellent job shutting down his opponents on a weekly basis.
According to Pro Football Focus, Tillman held Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson to three receptions and Andre Johnson to just four. His worst game was against Larry Fitzgerald, who caught six balls for 85 yards.
He was rated as the eighth best cornerback since 2008 by Pro Football Focus for his ability to shut down top receivers and force turnovers.
The latter is what the Steelers should be concerned about, as they have no room for error in the turnover battle. They have not forced a turnover this season.
Tillman has 35 career interceptions, including two already this season. He has the ability to add to that total against the Steelers.
He has a physical edge over the smaller Steelers receivers and has the benefit of a defensive front that gets to go against a Pittsburgh offensive line that has allowed seven sacks.
Between the pressure that Roethlisberger must face and the lack of timing with his receivers, he has only completed 58.6 percent of his passes.
This inaccuracy will be welcomed by the Bears’ defense.
Roethlisberger cannot get baited by Tillman as the Steelers can’t afford to lose the turnover battle for the third week in a row.
The Steelers need Roethlisberger to perform at a high level if the offense is going to get back on track. In order to have strong performance, he will have to work away from Tillman.