September 19, 2009
By Patrick Cartwright
This week the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to the windy city to face the Chicago Bears. Here are what I believe to be the keys to a Steelers victory.
1. Pressure Cutler – As you may have seen last Sunday, Jay Cutler isn’t quite the savior of mankind that all of Chicago thought he was when they traded for him a few months back. Funny what a four-pick game will do to a quarterback’s sterling reputation.
Regardless, the reason the Chicago faithful are pining for the days of Kyle Orton is simple; Green Bay put constant pressure on Cutler. He was hurried and frantic all day long. When he had the time, and the coverage allowed, he was able to throw the deep ball, but that wasn’t nearly as often as the Bears would like.
More than this, however, the pressure and defensive scheme limited Cutler’s ability to put the ball in the hands of two of his biggest playmakers; running back Matt Forte and tight end Greg Olsen, who was bracketed for practically the entire game.
The bottom line is, against the Packers’ much improved defense, there wasn’t much to look at in the passing game. I’ve read at least two or three articles attributing a lot of the Bears’ ineptitude to Green Bay’s new 3-4 defense. That the Steelers play the same style of defense, and are the best in the league at it, does not bode well for Cutler. He should be running for his life all afternoon.
2. Run the Ball…and then Pass like Hell – Steelers football is dead. Before you pass out or send a bunch of hate mail, let me explain; Steelers Football, as defined in the Myron Cope’s Official Terrible Dictionary, is “Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and play good defense.” Which is what I suppose they still do, because if the Steelers ran the ball on three consecutive tries, they would most likely end up punting.
I’ll say it right now; the run game is going nowhere. It hasn’t been any good for over a year now; yet Ben Roethlisberger has been better than he’s ever been in his career. Throw the damn ball.
I know the arguments. You have to run the ball the set up the pass. Ben already takes too many sacks. The offensive line is terrible. Wallace is a rookie, Sweed is undependable, Ward is too old, and Santonio might be high. I get it. To which I reply: The offense has looked fantastic in the 2-minute drill. They did last year. They did against Tennessee last Thursday.
The best running back we have right now, as far as I can tell, is Mewelde Moore, who seems to be valuable because he’s the only one who can catch a pass out of the backfield. Slow Willie isn’t getting it done anymore, and I have yet to see something from Mendenhall to make me think he’s the Next Big Thing at Steelers running back. Oh, and he still fumbles a lot.
Joe Flacco put up 300+ yards and 3 TDs last week. Joe Freakin’ Flacco. And you’re not going to want to hear this, but the Ravens have a much better running game than the Steelers do. Hell, I’d trade all three of our current running backs for Ray Rice. So please, please, sacrifice the notion of “Steelers Football”, or for the second time this decade, “Steelers Football” is going to be synonymous with following a Super Bowl win with a mediocre season.
3. The middle of the field is your friend – If you haven’t heard, Bears middle linebacker/Old Spice pitchman Brian Urlacher is out for the season with a dislocated wrist. Yes, he’s old-ish. And yes, he had back problems. But if you think Urlacher isn’t a difference maker, you’ve just come back from a Jamacian vacation with Ricky Williams.
With Urlacher gone, that leaves a hole in the middle of the field to be exploited. So how about throwing about, oh I don’ t know, a thousand passes to Heath Miller? Dear Baby Jesus, why do they not throw to Heath Miller more often?
But I’m getting away from myself. Heath, or perhaps Hines Ward, should be able to take advantage of Urlacher’s absence. Then, when they cheat players toward the middle, its long bomb time to Santonio or Mike Wallace.
Oh, and it would also be a good time to bring back the fullback.
4. Chicks Dig the Long Ball – While the short middle of the field will probably open up, that shouldn’t discourage Ben from throwing deep. The Bears defense has a significant weakness: their secondary is awful. And where the secondary isn’t deficient, its injured. Please, please, throw the long ball early and often, Bruce Arians. Do it. Don’t even think about it. Do it.
5. Don’t Screw Up – Honestly, the Steelers are the better team here. I don’t think player-for-player, the Bears should be able to keep up with the Steelers. But the Steelers have to be aware of the big play capability of this Bears team.
Jay Cutler has a cannon, and throwing the deep ball to a wide open receiver is something he excels at. With Troy Polamalu out, there is a weakness to be exploited in the Steelers’ secondary. If the safeties stay back and don’t get beat by the long ball, the Bears will be unable to capitalize.
The same goes for the Bears’ run game. Matt Forte may not have looked all that impressive last week, but he’s a strong runner that can not only wear a team down, but can break for a big play. Thankfully, the Steelers have one of the best run defenses in the NFL.
Lastly, the O-line needs to be able to protect Roethlisberger. The Bears showed improved play in their line and blitzing game last week against the Packers. If Ben has time to throw, this game could be a blowout. If not, it could be a long day for the Steelers offense.
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