3 Takeaways from Steelers' Week 9 Win
Pittsburgh was in control of the contest at Heinz Field for three quarters before chaos broke loose in the final 15 minutes.
Mike Tomlin's team let a 14-point lead slip away, and it needed a Chris Boswell field goal with 26 seconds left to secure the victory.
Pittsburgh leaves Week 9 with a 5-3 record, but some observers may see it as a deceiving mark because of the opponents it has played since Week 5.
Pittsburgh deserves credit for beating the teams in front of it, but it has a lot left to prove that it can challenge for the AFC North title and be a true contender in the Super Bowl hunt.
Fourth Quarter Mistakes Were Unacceptable
The Steelers' defense and special teams seemingly did everything possible to throw away the victory.
After three quarters of solid play, the Steelers struggled in both areas of the game and allowed the Bears to creep closer to them on the scoreboard.
Chicago's offense flipped a switch at the start of the fourth quarter, as it scored on a 15-yard run by Darnell Mooney. Prior to that point, the Bears had not scored a touchdown, and they settled for two field goals on a pair of long drives.
The Bears got closer to the Steelers after Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled a punt return that the NFC North side scooped up and ran into the end zone.
Pittsburgh answered both of those scoring plays with field goals out of Boswell, a sign that the offense was not doing enough to put away the game.
Chicago took the lead with one minute and 46 seconds left on a pass connection between Fields and Mooney. The Bears needed 66 seconds to find the end zone after Boswell's second field goal of the second half.
Luckily for the Steelers, they took advantage of Chicago's defensive lapses and got into field-goal range for Boswell to win the game with 26 seconds left.
However, closing out the game should not have been this difficult for a team that was on the path to a blowout win through three quarters.
If Pittsburgh wants to contend for the AFC North and playoff wins, it must be cleaner in the fourth quarter to avoid these types of situations.
Pat Freiermuth Is the New Heath Miller
It is easy to draw comparisons between Pat Freiermuth and Heath Miller.
Over the last few weeks, the second-round pick out of Penn State has become one of Ben Roethlisberger's most reliable targets.
On Monday, the duo took their connection to another level when Freiermuth caught a pair of touchdowns. It was the first multi-score game of his young career.
Dating back to Week 6, Freiermuth has 20 targets over three games. In the first five weeks, he had 13 combined targets.
Freiermuth's increased usage is partly because of the injury suffered by Eric Ebron. The veteran tight end was once again on the inactive list on Monday.
Roethlisberger has gained a ton of trust in Freiermuth in a rapid amount of time, and that connection should benefit the Steelers moving forward, especially in the red zone.
In addition to his red-zone targets, Freiermuth hauled in a key 13-yard reception on the game-winning drive. He is fitting the Heath Miller role perfectly, and he should be a vital piece of the offense moving forward as the opponents get tougher.
Steelers Need to Play Cleaner Game Against Detroit to Prepare for Tough Stretch
Pittsburgh has one more easy opponent in front of it before the schedule takes a turn for the worse.
The Steelers host the Detroit Lions coming off their bye in Week 10 in their fifth straight matchup against a weaker foe.
To Pittsburgh's credit, it has beaten the teams in front of it on the schedule and created a four-game winning streak out of that.
Some of the other contenders in the AFC, like the Buffalo Bills, can't brag about that type of achievement because of unexpected losses.
Pittsburgh needs to evaluate its mistakes, especially in late-game situations, from Monday and clean things up against a Lions team that was gashed for 44 points by the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8.
If the Steelers play a near-perfect game in Week 10, it will set them up for an arduous closing stretch in which they do not have consecutive home contests. They play five of their last eight games on the road.
We will find out if Pittsburgh is a true contender starting in Week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Steelers have to play the Baltimore Ravens twice, the Cincinnati Bengals once and visit the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings during that stretch as well.