NFL

Bears vs. Steelers: Keys to Each Team Obtaining Victory on Sunday Night

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 16:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass during the NFL game against the  Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 16, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2013

Two NFL franchises entrenched with rich histories but delving down diverging paths will clash on Sunday Night Football.

Poor offensive displays have led the Pittsburgh Steelers to an 0-2 start, putting them in danger of suffering their first losing season since 2003. 

The Chicago Bears, on the other hand, have established some offensive rhythm under new head coach Marc Trestman, scoring 55 points through two games en route to a 2-0 start.

While Pittsburgh badly needs a win to stay afloat in the AFC North, Chicago can put the league on notice with a big win on national TV. This hard-hitting bout will feature two gritty defenses, but the offensive units could determine which team triumphs.

Here is each squad's key to emerging victorious on Sunday Night Football.

 

When: Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa. 

TV/Live Stream: NBC

 

Chicago's Key to Victory: Establish a Passing Game

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears passes against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on September 15, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Pittsburgh's defense is stingy against the pass, but opponents have also failed to rupture the front seven with 3.1 yards per carry.

The Steelers will set their sights on stymieing Matt Forte, which sets the bar for Jay Cutler to make some plays. That's easier said than done against a defense ranking eighth in passing defense, but that number is misleading considering Pittsburgh faced the Tennessee Titans during Week 1.   

Cutler received little responsibility under Lovie Smith, attempting 434 passes (27.1 per game) in a run-heavy attack. But Trestman has taken the training wheels off, allowing Cutler to air it out 71 times through two bouts.

He has delivered under the larger role, completing 48 of those passes for 534 passing yards and five touchdowns. The Bears, who led the league in takeaways last season while yielding 17.3 points per game, are tough to beat when the offense produces points.

Star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who received the second-most targets in the NFL last season, has fought through a tight back this week. Even though he is likely to suit up, Marshall and Cutler can use some help from Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett this weekend.

 

Pittsburgh's Key to Victory: Protect Ben Roethlisberger

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 16:  Wallace Gilberry #95 and Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals combine to sack Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter on September 16, 2013 at Paul Brown Stadium on September 16, 2013
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Steelers are abysmal on the offensive end. Betraying their reputation as ground-and-pound bruisers, their AFC-worst running game is a lost cause.

Also weak, their passing offense ranks 27th in passing yards. For this stuttering offense to have any shot on Sunday night, the offensive line has to hold down the fort and give Ben Roethlisberger a fighting chance.

Roethlisberger's tendency to hold onto the ball doesn't help, but he has already been sacked seven times. Defenses are taking open season on the quarterback with no threat of a running game to keep them honest. Since nobody is counting on Felix Jones or Isaac Redman to solve a defense allowing 3.4 yards per carry, it's all up to the passing game.

Big Ben has completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 6.31 yards per attempt. Those numbers need to rise for the Steelers to avoid an 0-3 start that will break the panic meter. 

An anemic offensive line must help the cause; otherwise a pressured Roethlisberger could feed the ball to a defense that pounces on the opposition for turnovers. Pittsburgh is not good enough to get away with coughing up the football.

 

Prediction

Pittsburgh's offense continues to struggle, and Chicago continues to gain more confidence under an improved offensive scheme. The Bears send the Steelers to their nadir with a decisive victory.

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