Chicago Bears @ Pittsburgh Steelers (8:30 ET, NBC, 9/22/2013)

Last Week

The Bears played like dogshit in many aspects of the game, but ended up pulling a win out of their ass with a touchdown in the waning seconds of the game. Also of note, the opposing team made a critical blunder that sealed the win in the 2nd consecutive game (a squib kick fumble). 

The Steelers lost to the Bengals soundly (a team the Bears have already defeated this year, if that gives you any indication of these teams' relative strengths). The Steelers' poor passing game is the BETTER part of their offense this year, as Pittsburgh just has no offense to speak and no healthy or good running backs. 

Bears Run Versus Steelers Run Defense

Chicago has not really got it going in the first 2 games of the year. I think that's the product of a few things; first, Cincinnati and Minnesota are both decent lines as far as suppressing the run, and secondly, the Bears' O-Line just is not getting any decent lanes open for Forte to run through. 

I don't think it's going to get much better this Sunday. While the Steelers haven't really had much of a run defense THIS season (22nd per FO), last year they were stout at defending the run, and I believe that's more their true talent level. The Steelers are an adequate run defense team and the Bears (with this line) are just an adequate running team. Call it a push.

Steelers Run Versus Bears Run Defense

They are real, real bad. Their leading rusher this year is Felix Jones (10 carries, 37 yards). Second place is LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is injured (and also had 19 yards). LeVeon Bell was expected to take the brunt of the carries this year, but he's been injured and won't play in this game. It's feasible to assume that the Steelers are the worst running team in football this year.

Suddenly this season, the Bears have been mediocre against the run. I'm willing to believe that's a result of playing against AP last week, though, and I'm very confident that the Bears are going to dominate the trenches here and hold Pittsburgh to a pretty low yardage. 

Bears Pass Versus Steelers Pass Defense

The Steelers have a fairly solid unit here. Ike Taylor is one of the premier defenders in the game, and look for him to more-or-less erase Marshall from the game (he held A.J. Green to 41 yards on 6 catches). That means it's going to be up to Alshon Jeffery and the Bennetts to get it done. Pittsburgh has been burned badly by TE's this season so far, and I expect Martellus Bennett to be no different. In my opinion, this is the key of the game. If Cutler can find Martellus early and often, the Bears will shorten the game and reduce the risks they end up taking. The Bears are the better team, so I expect them to use the safe option that should beat them.

Of course, it's all moot if the Bears can't keep Cutler upright. They've done that so far this year, and the Steelers line is not fearsome. If they can avoid too many sacks and give Cutler some time, he'll be fine.

Steelers Pass Versus Bears Pass Defense

Todd Haley is a poor offensive coordinator, and it's pretty apparent in how Ben Roethlisberger has backslid these past 2 years. The receivers are fairly talented; I like Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown good enough. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Jennings and Tillman are plenty good enough to hold them in check, with the added bonus of usually being good for a turnover or two. Add to that an offensive line missing it's best player, Maurkice Pouncey, and a great interior defensive line on the Bears side, and I wouldn't be surprised if Big Ben has more picks than touchdowns in this game. While Ben Roethlisberger usually doesn't take no for an answer and imposes his will on others, I think the unwanted penetration up the middle is really going stick with him the morning after.

Special Teams

Devin Hester is Devin Hester, and the Steelers don't have a Devin Hester. Advantage: Bears.

Prediction

This week, I'm including predictions from my dad and brother, because they were both in town this weekend. 

Myles' Dad: Bears 31, Steelers 21
Myles' Brother: Bears 35, Steelers 3
Myles: Bears 27, Steelers 13

(2-0 straight up, 0-1-1 ATS)

 

 

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