September 16, 2009
By Donald Starver
This Sunday, the Steelers travel to Chicago to take on the Chicago Bears. Kickoff is at 4:15 PM ET.
Soldier Field has not been a friendly venue for the Steelers. The Steelers have lost 11 of their last 12 games in Chicago.
Despite their losing record in Chicago, the Steelers have won their last 3 games against the Bears, including their November 5, 1995 37-34 win over the Bears in Chicago.
As evidenced by the fact that the Steelers haven’t played in Chicago in over a decade, these two teams don’t face one another very often. That being the case, there won’t be a great deal of familiarity between them.
The last time they played was in 2005 here in Pittsburgh, when the Steelers won 21-9. Some fans may remember that game as the “Bus runs over Urlacher” game. That’s certainly what I remember about it.
But 4 years is a long time, and these are both completely different teams.
The Bears are coming off a difficult loss to their NFC North rivals the Green Bay Packers. In that game, the Bears’ new franchise quarterback Jay Cutler struggled. Cutler completed only 17 of his 36 pass attempts, and ended the game with pathetic 43.2 passer rating. More importantly, the Packers’ new 3-4 defense had Cutler completely frazzled. Cutler was sacked twice, and threw 4 interceptions.
This is the Packers’ first year playing a 3-4 defense, and they executed it very well against the Bears. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has certainly been watching the film of that game, and will have far more exotic blitzes planned for Cutler than what he saw from the Packers.
Not only did the Packers successfully shut down Cutler, they also managed to keep Bears running back Matt Forte in check. Forte was held to 55 yards rushing on 25 attempts. That’s only 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.
We all know that the Steelers defense relishes the opportunity to face premiere running backs. They take great pride in holding the NFL’s top running backs to under 100 yards rushing. Matt Forte should be in for a long day.
When most fans think of the Bears, they think of the stout Bears defense that carried the team to Super Bowl XLI back in 2007. However, that team has changed greatly. The defense is no longer the strength of the team. The Bears’ defense finished 2008 as the 21st ranked defense in the NFL. That’s a far cry from the 2006/2007 team.
To make things even worse for the Bears’ defense, star linebacker Brian Urlacher was lost for the season last week. Losing Urlacher hurts the Bears the same way that losing Troy Polamalu hurts the Steelers. Maybe more.
So the Steelers will face a Bears team with a depleted defense and a high flying offense. Yeah, these are not your father’s Chicago Bears.
In order to win the game, the Steelers are going to need a much better performance from their running backs than they got in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans. Willie Parker in particular is going to have to improve on the 19 yards that he accumulated against the Titans.
The Steelers’ defense will be missing two key starters, as Troy Polamalu will be sidelined following last week’s knee injury. The Steelers also announced that linebacker Lawrence Timmons re-injured his ankle in practice and is questionable for the game.
Despite missing Polamalu and Timmons, the Steelers should still be more than up to the challenge of facing the Bears. Tyrone Carter is a seasoned veteran, and has played in place of Polamalu before. Keyaron Fox is also a quality backup. In fact, he looked more impressive than Lawrence Timmons in preseason.
My prediction is that the Steelers are going to leave Chicago with their 4th straight win against the Bears. The final score will be Steelers 21 – Bears 10. You heard it here first.
The Steelers have won six straight games and eight of the past 9 (dating back to 1998) against teams currently in the NFC North.
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