The Chicago Bears are on the opposite end of the spectrum after losing their opening game to division rival the Green Bay Packers and losing defensive captain and face of the franchise, Brian Urlacher.
Lets see who has the advantage:
Roethlisberger continues to be the king of the fourth quarter. Big Ben went 16-18 in the fourth quarter and overtime, for 171 yards. That is an 88% completion percentage in crunch time. YIKES!
He also continues to be the hardest quarterback in the NFL to sack. He is not the most elusive, but being bigger than most linebackers that are rushing him gives him an advantage in shaking off tackles.
Jay Cutler is coming off a putrid performance against the Packers in which he threw four interceptions. The good news? He played much better in the second half of the Packer game. Bad news? He is facing a much better defense in the Steelers.
You think Cutler looked rushed most of the game last week, just wait to see how fast he has to get rid of some of these passes when the Steelers blitz.
Verdict: Cutler will do better than last week, but so might Big Ben.
Willie Parker/Rashard Mendenhall vs Matt Forte
Speaking of putrid, the total net rushing yardage from Steeler running backs last week was 33 yards (That includes eight yards from Mewelde Moore). Fast Willie Parker accumulated 19 rushing yards on 13 carries, a scant 1.5 yards per carry.
To be fair, the Titans defense is one to be reckoned with, but they did lose Albert Haynesworth in the offseason so you think that the Steelers could have mounted some sort of running game.
On the flip side, Matt Forte also had a disappointing game, rushing 25 times for 55 yards, a mere 2.5 yards per carry. And what was more, he had no receptions. This coming a season after pulling in 60. Don't look for that to repeat itself this game (at least the receptions).
Verdict: Steelers have a one-two punch but Forte is dual threat. Plus Troy Polamalu will not be playing this game. While the Bears will be missing Urlacher, Lance Briggs is still the best linebacker on the team. Polamalu is the best player on the whole Steelers D.
Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward vs Devin Hester and Earl Bennett
Santonio Holmes provides the flash and Hines Ward is the most physical receiver in the NFL. Look for Big Ben to be eyeing these two all night. They combined for 234 yards and a touchdown last week against the Titans defense.
Devin Hester and Earl Bennett actually performed better than expected last game combining for 156 yards and a touchdown, although Bennett did have a drop or two.
Verdict: Still not that close.
Heath Miller vs Greg Olsen
Miller was a constant target for Big Ben all of last year and it didn't look like much has changed judging from his week one performance: eight catches for 64 yards. Miller is also a decent blocking tight end which makes his dual abilities, especially in the red zone, something the Bears linebackers/free safety will have to watch.
Greg Olsen did not really show up for the Bears in week one. He ended up with one catch for a measly eight yards although he mostly drew double coverage. Look for the Bears offense to open up with some passes to both him and Forte to get Cutler in rhythm early.
Plus, if Olsen can draw double coverage from the Steelers defense, it should help open up passing lanes to the Bears wide receivers or the other tight end (in this case, Kellen Davis or Michael Gaines). And Olsen's numbers will improve. He is to good a player to be held down for to long.
Verdict: Miller has the consistency, Olsen has the potential.
Steelers O-Line vs Bears O-Line
This is where the battle will be won or lost. The Steelers offensive line has not exactly been the model of solid, although they receive the benefits of having Big Ben playing behind them. Roethlisberger was sacked a total of 46 times last season. That is in contrast to the Bears line, which allowed Kyle Orton to be sacked 27 times.
Their rushing stats are nearly identical:
- Steelers running backs last year: 409 carries for 1549 yards and 10 TD's (Average of 3.8 yards per carry)
- Bears running backs last year: 396 carries for 1542 yards and 10 TD's (Average of 3.9 yards per carry)
In week one of this year, neither rushing attack got off to a strong start. The Steelers accumulated 36 rush yards while the Bears 86. Roethlisberger was sacked four times and Cutler was sacked twice. But to be fair, the Titans defense is superior to the Packers defense.
Verdict: Neither was that impressive
Ike Taylor and William Gay vs Charles Tillman and Zachary Bowman
Taylor is entering his fifth year as a starter for the Steelers and while he doesn't make a ton of interceptions, his coverage skills are complimented nicely by the Steelers defensive backs.
Gay is in his first full season as a starter. He had the game sealing interception in a victory over the Ravens last year that secured the AFC North title. He is fast and quick although a little on the shorter side at only 5'10".
Charles Tillman is still coming off back surgery he had right before training camp. He looked solid against the Packers last week and hopefully will only improve as he gets more reps.
Bowman actually played last week, but was not in during crunch time (such as the 50-plus yard TD pass to Greg Jennings) as he is still recovering from a strained hamstring. Lovie has already said Bowman will get more playing time this week and he will have his hands full with these two receivers.
Verdict: Taylor and Gay aren't spectacular, but then Tillman and Bowman are still recovering and Bowman has only played in two career NFL games.
Free Safety/Strong Safety:
Tyrone Carter and Ryan Clark vs Kevin Payne and Danieal Manning
Carter is filling in for injured starter and perennial pro bowler, Troy Polamalu. And while losing Polamalu hurts, Carter is a starter quality player. He has filled in for the Steelers defensive backfield off and on for the past five seasons. There will be some drop off, but not as big of one as most Bears fans would hope.
Clark has been a consistent player during his tenure in Pittsburgh, although often overshadowed by fan favorite Polamalu, Clark has the ability to come up and make a stop and to also get back and provide over the top help for the corners.
Kevin Payne is entering his second year as the full time strong safety. His tackling has gotten better but there is still room to improve.
Manning had himself a pretty solid game last week recording a safety on Packer QB Aaron Rodgers. His speed and quickness give him the ability to never be out of a play but his instincts are still developing, especially on play action passes.
Both Tyrone Carter and Danieal Manning are on their respective teams injury reports. The Steelers have Carter on there as a non injury related, so expect him to start and play with no problems.
Manning on the other hand was limited in practice. Expect rookie Al Afalava to get some looks, as he did last week.
Verdict: Bears have the youth, Steelers have the experience...even with Polamalu.
Lamar Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, and James Harrison vs Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer, and Nick Roach
To be fair, the Bears suffered injuries to Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa in the opening week. If those two were playing Sunday, I would push this, but come on, I know Lawrence Timmons hasn't been able to practice much, but this isn't even fair.
Urlacher is done for the season and Pisa is out for a couple weeks at least. I don't even need to explain anymore.
Verdict: A foregone conclusion
Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel vs Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, Anthony Adams and Alex Brown
Smith, Hampton and Keisel are about as solid of a group ofthree defensive lineman as you can get. And really when it comes down to it, Harrison or Woodley will be coming on every play anyway (Yeah, I know, odds are several linebackers, a safety and maybe a corner will be crossing the line of scrimmage on almost every play).
And trying to run the ball against this unit is nearly impossible.
On the other side, the Bears D line showed up last week. Or at least Adewale Ogunleye did with two sacks plus he hit Rodgers on about three or four other plays. Tommie Harris looked a little sluggish but the Packers couldn't muster much of a passing game either and the constant pressure led to some over thrown balls by the Packers QB.
Verdict: Might be generous here, but after last week and against this Steelers O-line, I know the Bears D will be getting after Roethlisberger.
ADVANTAGE: BEARS (and this is because Woodley is considered a LB, if it was a 4-3 defense with him there on an end, it would be advantage Steelers or a push at worst)
Jeef Reed vs Robbie Gould
Listen, both are clutch, both are experienced and while Reed might have a little longer distance, Gould has the accuracy.
Verdict: If it comes down to a final kick, don't count on either one of them missing.
Daniel Sepulveda vs Brad Maynard
Sepulveda sent four of his seven punts last game inside the 20 yard line. What is more, as a rookie, he punted 68 punts last season and only two of them ended as touchbacks. That is impressive.
Maynard only punted four times against the Packers but landed two of them inside the 20 yard line. Out of his own 96 punts last season (I still can't get over that insanely high number) he had 40 of them downed inside the 20 with only five touchbacks.
Verdict: What do you think?
Stefan Logan vs Devin Hester/Danieal Manning
Stefan Logan is a 28-year-old rookie. He took some time off after high school before eventually enrolling at South Dakota. He spent a little time in the CFL and made the Steelers roster after a fairly impressive preseason.
A track star in college, you know this man can bring the speed.
Hester has still yet to get on track returning punts since his first two years in the league, but Manning has continued to flash and speed on kickoffs.
Verdict: Logan has some potential, but Hester and Manning have both taken kicks back to the house.
Mike Tomlin vs Lovie Smith
Tomlin has won a Super Bowl and coupled with Dick LeBeau, has continued making the Steelers defense one of the best, if not the best in the NFL.
While Lovie has taken the Bears to a Super Bowl, his assistant coaching hires and personal decisions have placed him on the hot seat this year.
Verdict: I like Lovie... but he is going to have to prove to me he is a better coach.
So in conclusion, I am still picking the Bears to win because I always pick with my heart. But if it came down to stats and logic, the Steelers would win in a waltz.
But since logic generally escapes me: Bears 23 Steelers 20