Week Two MatchUp: Steelers (1-0) at Bears (0-1)

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Week Two MatchUp: Steelers (1-0) at Bears (0-1)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Head Coaches Lovie Smith and Mike Tomlin were defensive coaches with then Head Coach Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Smith was linebacker coach from 1996-2000; Tomlin defensive backs coach from 2001-2005.

As head coaches both took their teams to the Super Bowl, but only Tomlin came home with the Lombardi trophy, while Smith lost Super Bowl XLI to his former head coach, Dungy.

This Sunday, Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Chicago to take on Lovie Smith and his Chicago Bears.

Kickoff is at 4:15 PM ET.

Soldier Field has not been friendly for the Steelers.

For two teams that don’t play against each other too often, the Steelers have lost 11 of their last 12 games in Chicago.

The Steelers come into this game 1-0 after defeating the Tennessee Titans in overtime at Heinz Field.

With an ineffective run game against a stout, tough defensive front, the Steelers won with the passing game.

Last week a few Steelers offensive linemen said they were somewhat confused by Tennessee's 4-3 defense.

Sunday, they go against again another tough 4-3 front in Chicago.

They will meet with another stout defensive front four manned by defensive ends- Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown; defensive tackles Tommy Harris and Anthony Adams.

Hopefully, the line have worked on their fundamental and have made the necessary adjustments to block on the run better than they did in the opener.

Tomlin acknowledges the 4-3 caused some confusion for the offense and continues “it is obvious; we have to do a better job (with the running game).”

"We understand what we face schematically this week from these guys and how they play, but at the same time understanding and being able to function against it are two different things. We've got to put ourselves in position to execute."

Last week against the Titans, the Steelers running game managed a dismal 36 yards and 1.8 yards per carry on 23 attempts.

They could not pick up short yardage and tried three different backs with little success: Willie Parker (13-19), Mewelde Moore (5-8) and Rashard Mendenhall (4-6).

The line run-blocking was terrible and as the Titan defense clogged the lanes the backs had little to no room to run.

If the run-game continues to fail, its possible we can expect to see tight-end Heath Miller becoming more involved in the short-yardage passing, to be an option on third and short instead of the running backs.

In the season opener, Miller caught eight passes, tying his career high, for 64 yards.  

The Bears loss to their NFC North rivals the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Jay Cutler struggled only completing 17 of his 36 pass attempts with a 43.2 passer rating. 

The offense failed to convert seven third downs against the Packers.

Coach Lovie Smith said. "A lot of new players, lot of new guys on the offensive line"

The Packers’ new 3-4 defense had Cutler completely frazzled being sacked twice, and threw 4 interceptions.

This is the Packers’ first year playing the 3-4 defense which they executed very well successfully shutting down Cutler.

We can expect defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to certainly come up with some exotic blitzes for Cutler as well. 

In the passing game, the Bears really don’t have much of receiver department except converted defensive back to wide receiver Devon Hester and Desmond Clark.

Although showing some improvement as a pass catcher, Hester did catch 4 for 90 yards and a touchdown last week against the Packers

In the running game, the Packers manage to hold Bears running back Matt Forte to 55 yards rushing on 25 attempts—2.2 yards per carry.

Last season, Forte had a breakout season in which he amassed 1,238 yards and finished seventh in the NFL in rushing.

The Bears offensive line struggled in picking up stunts and blitzes of the Packers 3-4 scheme.

All-in-all, the Bears rush for 86 yards on 31 attempts to average 2.8 yards per carry, while their rival Green Bay Packers amassed 76 yards on 22 carries averaging 3.5 yards per carry. .

With both offensive lines struggling to maneuver against the two types of defenses (Steelers against the 4-3, the Bears against the 3-4) it will be interesting to watch which offense will prevail.

The Steeler defense on the other hand allowed the Titans 86 yards on 25 carries averaging 3.4 yards per carry zero touchdowns.

Titans Chris Johnson had one 32-yard run, which was considered highly unusual against the second-best run defense in the league.   

Interesting to note, without that play the Titans were 24 for 54 on the ground and had no touchdowns

The Bears allowed the Packers 76 yards on 22 carries on the ground to average 3.5 yards per carry and one touchdown.

The Bears will have to try to defend the run without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Urlacher dislocated his wrist and is expected to be out for six weeks.

Stepping in for Urlacher, will be Hunter Hillenmeyer who started seven games for Urlacher during his injury-riddled 2004 season.

Hillenmeyer has started 49 additional games at strong-side linebacker.

In addition, strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa was sidelined with a knee sprain.

Nine-game starter Nick Roach will replace Tinoisamoa.

The Steelers will try to defend the pass without strong-safety Troy Polamalu who injured the medial collateral ligament in the attempt to recover a fumble.

In his place will be 10-year pro Tyrone Carter.

Although Carter does not have Polamalu’s speed, anticipation or playmaking ability, Carter has proven to be that quality backup when Polamalu has gone down the past.

When Polamalu suffered the hamstring in 2005, it was Tyrone Carter who helped the defense catapult the Steelers to Super Bowl XL.

Six seasons with the Steelers, Carter is no stranger to the LeBeau’s defense nor has this been the first that Carter has covered the strong safety position.

Last season, Carter grabbed three interceptions, two interceptions in Week 17 against the Browns.

He intercepted quarterback Bruce Gradkowski twice and returned the second one for a 32 yard touchdown.

Last week, NT Casey Hampton looks to be more active at his position with five tackles and three quarterback hurries in the opener.

It was the first time, Hampton has played some in the passing defense as he is normally clogging lanes up the front and pushing the pocket.

Despite the lackluster effort on the ground in week one, the Steeler offensive line was shown to be much better in pass protection.  

Even though Roethlisberger was sacked four times during the Tennessee game, he was able to complete 33 of 43 passes for 363 yards and one touchdown with solid pass protection, especially in the second half.

The Bears sacked Aaron Rodgers four times, including two by Adewale Ogunleye, and they limited the Packers to a net of 150 passing yards.

But the Bears' are thin in the secondary and were burnt by the long ball against Green Bay.

This will certainly be an opportunity to have Roethlisberger stretch the field in the no-huddle buying some time to make a play to an open receiver.

Last week, the Steelers had receivers top 100 yards, Santonio Holmes catching nine for 131 and a 34-yard touchdown and Hines Ward with eight for 103.

Roethlisberger completed five of seven on the winning field goal drive in overtime, including a final one of 22 yards to the 15 to rookie No. 3 wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Steelers’ special teams continue to improve.

Titans’ kicker, Rob Bironas missed two field goals -one blocked by defensive end Aaron Smith.

New return man Stefan Logan opened the game with a 39-yard kickoff return, and not much more after that.

On punts, Logan returned one for 11 yards.

Two were downed or out of bounds while two more were fair catches.

Punter Daniel Sepulveda averaged only 42.7 yards on seven punts and did a nice job, dropping four inside the 20.

The Bears special teams’ was not as fortunate.

Long snapper Pat Mannelly called for an ill-advised fake from punt formation.

It was thought the Packers had 12 men on the field, but the 12th man got off the field in time.

Running back Garrett Wolfe was stopped for a four-yard gain, giving the Packers the ball at the Bears' 30 which set up a field goal.

Kicker Robbie Gould hit field goals of 47 and 21 yards and punter Brad Maynard finished the day with a net average of 46.0 yards on four kicks, two of which were inside the 20.

Kickoff coverage allowed an average of 31.0 yards on four attempts.

The return game was considered solid but not spectacular.

 

Notable Steeler injuries:

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons re-injured his left ankle after returning to practice for the first time in more than three weeks

He may return to play against Chicago on Sunday, although it could be in passing situations only, on the nickel.

In his place again will be linebacker Keyaron Fox again.

As a Steeler, Fox has gone from special teams’ standout to key line-backing reserve.

He excels as a run-stopper and was instrumental in keeping Titans running back Chris Johnson in tow.

His services will be needed again against Bears running back Matt Forte.

Wide receiver Limas Sweed also left practice with a mid-foot sprain. His availability for Sunday's game is in question.

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