Things “Joestradamus” has in common with the Chicago Bears: we’re both 2-0.
According to my prediction this week, we should both have no problems making it 3-0.
Week 3: September 22nd at Pittsburgh Steelers
As a franchise known as a model of consistency, the Pittsburgh Steelers are living up to that reputation in a whole new way this season. They’ve looked consistently bad on their way to an 0-2 start.
The window of opportunity has slammed quickly after a decade of playoff contention. The team has no offense to speak of and a defense resembling the AARP.
The Chicago Bears have made it clear that they’re not underestimating the Steelers, especially since this is their first road game in the raucous confines of Heinz Field. But this is a test the Bears should pass with flying colors.
After all, what do you expect when your head coach resembles a college professor? Or… wait, is it more like Willy Wonka?
Anyways, the Chicago Bears seem to hold the upper hand in every category outside of the defensive line, which is a wash. Pro bowlers Julius Peppers and Henry Melton have combined for as many sacks as I have in my NFL career (that number is zero).
I suppose we can take solace in the fact that the entire rotation of Steelers defensive linemen have yet to register a single sack this season. But don’t expect the Bears to be playing down to their opponent’s potential this Sunday.
The duo will both snap out of their funks sooner or later., and the Steelers are a prime candidate to help them do so.
Maurkice Pouncey, arguably the best center in the NFL, suffered a season ending knee injury in the Steelers week one loss to the Titans. Without their anchor, Pittsburgh’s offensive line looks a lot like the set of revolving doors we saw a few years back in Chicago.
The injury problems are compounded by the fact that the Steelers can’t find a way to get anything going on the ground. ANYTHING.
Second round draft pick Le’Veon Bell is still nursing a Lisfranc sprain back to full health. He may see his first game action this Sunday, but the hodge-podge of veteran retreads the team has been using in his absence will likely carry the bulk of the load.
Felix Jones, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Jonathan Dwyer have combined for a staggering 70 total rushing yards and zero touchdowns on the season.
Note the sarcasm.
With the ground game beyond anemic and the line depleted, it’s only a matter of time before the flood gates bust open. When you “rely” on your passing offense like the Steelers do (which is sad because it’s nearly as bad as their running game), you get a quarterback consistently taking deep drops to try and let pass patterns develop. That’s a recipe for tired linemen.
It’s like dangling a steak in front of a hungry lion. I expect Peppers to have two sacks on his own, and the Bears unit will come away with four plus.
Speaking of the Steelers equally terrible passing offense, Ben Roethlisberger is being asked to turn an average bunch of receivers into a group that can win games. He’s also becoming progressively less mobile over time, which is a big reason why he’s already been sacked seven times on the season.
Homerun threat Mike Wallace skipped town for Miami in the offseason and long time tight end Heath Miller has spent the first two games on the injured list. He may return this Sunday, but it won’t matter much.
Even with Charles Tillman listed as “questionable” for the game, the Bears secondary has the upper hand. The defense currently ranks third after forcing six turnovers in two weeks, and we should expect them to tally a few more when Big Ben is forced to take to the air.
While the Steelers offense has been a shell of its former self, their aging defense still seems to be holding serve. Despite not getting much pressure on opposing quarterbacks, they’ve managed to hold teams to just over 300 yards per game and 4.5 yards per play. That ranks them in the top third of the NFL in both categories.
But the offense can’t move the chains to support their efforts. The defense is bouncing back and forth between the field and the sidelines every two minutes because the offense can’t sustain a drive.
I don’t expect Jay Cutler and the offense to light up this defense by any means; they’ve only allowed a total of 36 points on the season. The Steelers D is a bend-but-don’t-break type bunch. They leave that breaking part up to the offense.
What we do know is this: Brandon Marshall will make his usual impact, Martellus Bennett will pose as the main threat in the red zone, and Matt Forte will gather a total of around 100 yards through the air and on the ground.
If the Chicago Bears can just stay consistent in that regard, and if Cutler can avoid making stupid mistakes, the offense will put up enough points to put this game out of reach.
It won’t be a blow out; not with the home field advantage and wily group of vets the Steelers have holding together the defense.
But I have no reason to believe Pittsburgh will be able to break out against the Chicago Bears defense, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Devin Hester is going to follow up his unreal returning performance a week ago with his first touchdown return since 2011.
All three phases will score a touchdown for the Bears and they’ll run their record to 3-0 with a 21-10 victory.