Bears-Steelers: Good Jay Cutler Shows Up, Chicago Shuts Down Pittsburgh 17-14
Coach Tomlin knows his team, and Troy Polamalu really is that damned important to the Steelers defense.
All week long, Coach Tomlin made sure that the Steelers saw game film of not only last week's performance by Jay Cutler against the Packers, but last year's performance by Jay Cutler against the Steelers in Denver.
He knew how dangerous Cutler can be when he gets going, and he wanted to make sure his team didn't forget it.
One of two things happened: either they felt supremely confident in their ability to limit Cutler's production and didn't take him seriously, or Coach Tomlin talked too much over the ensuing week that they acted like my children do when I try to get a point across, and totally ignored the message.
Turns out Coach was right.
Jay Cutler came out looking like a Pro Bowl quarterback, and he made the Steelers secondary look like an average unit.
Which, it appears, they are without Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers need to hope that he is ready to go closer to the three-week mark rather than the six weeks it could take for his knee to heal.
Can anyone say platelet-plasma therapy and a hyperbaric chamber?
Without Polamalu in the lineup, the Steelers were forced into a zone defense, having to play things closer to the vest than they normally do with Troy running around in the backfield like a madman.
The Bears, on the other hand, joined the Titans in exposing the Steelers offensive front as the weak run-blocking unit that they are. Without Brian Urlacher in the lineup for Chicago, Pittsburgh should have had a huge day running.
Without Ben Roethlisberger's six yards, they failed to gain 100 yards for the second straight week.
When the Steelers don't gain 100 yards rushing, and Big Ben doesn't gain over 300 yards passing in the same game, their win-loss record is far from desirable.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears showed that even without their defensive leader, they have got a little moxie.
I don't care what you think about Cutler: he is a talented quarterback, and if you give him a zone to play against all day, he is going to pick it apart. It's when you throw different coverages at him that he gets excited and starts forcing things.
But today, he had all the time in the world to throw the ball.
Which he did, all day long. With near pinpoint accuracy, time and again Cutler laid off the deep pass and beat the Steelers underneath with short- to medium-range passes.
He completed one deep pass for 29 yards; the rest were slants, screen, out routes, with the receivers doing the bulk of the work after the catch to gain the big yards.
If Polamalu is in the game, those passes aren't there.
It wasn't a high scoring contest. Steelers games rarely are, even when they are gaining over 100 yards on the ground and Big Ben is throwing the ball all over the place.
But without their star safety, the Steelers kept giving inch after inch after inch, which was just enough to give the Bears a couple of touchdowns and a late field goal.
Of course, normally solid Jeff Reed shanked two critical field goals that would have forced Chicago to go for a touchdown in the fourth quarter instead of having the luxury of a field goal to win the game.
And of course, Steelers rookie Stefan Logan fumbling the ensuing kickoff didn't help much either, but the likelihood of the Steelers completing a Hail Mary pass to win are as likely as Brendan Stokely catching a tipped pass and running it in for the winning touchdown.
Wait a minute...
Well, whatever the bounce, the Steelers didn't get it this week. Chicago recovered the fumble, and sent the Steelers to the locker room with a record of 1-1.
Jay Cutler took a step towards redeeming last week's performance, although in his case the jury will likely stay out for most of the season.
Pittsburgh continues to showcase their weakness—i.e. they can't seem to run block against a decent defensive front—to the rest of the league.
And Jeff Reed may have had to take a separate plane home.
At 1-1, the Steelers have now had two games decided by fewer than a touchdown.
Close games are the Steelers' forte, but come on, guys, can we have at LEAST one or two blowouts this year? At the very least, can we take a lead and hold it instead of having to come from behind?
Is that too much to ask?
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