September 21, 2013
There is something special about the NFL. Unlike their sports counterparts in Major League Baseball and the NBA, Pro Football teams have only 16 regular season contests to get it right. The 2013 version of the "Monsters of the Midway", under 1st year Head Coach Marc Trestman, have a completely different look (even after just 2 regular season games). Unlike the 2012 version that dominated defensively yet struggled to score like the school geek on Prom Night, this team seems to be a complete opposite. Trestman's troops are currently struggling defensively (generating a consistent pass rush and stopping teams on 3rd down) and making BIG plays late in games offensively to win them. With home wins over Cincinnati and Minnesota, the Bears must avoid the lull of playing a struggling Pittsburgh Steelers team that is having it's own issues generating offense.
The Bears know that communication is going to be the biggest challenge, going into a hostile environment with 2 rookie starters on their offensive line. Though Kyle Long and Jordan Mills have played well, the multi-look, blitz heavy Pittsburgh defense provides it's own challenges in addition to the crowd noise. The offensive line, formerly a huge issue for this team, is reconstructed and "under new management" (in Aaron Kromer) and we saw how the unit struggled last season against the Packers and Niners (who also run a 3-4 look). I'm confident that if there are some "growing pains", early, that the unit will work quickly to get on the same page. One thing I have been impressed with in this group of coaches is there ability to make adjustments when there are struggles. Quarterback Jay Cutler will have to be particularly careful with where he goes with the ball (especially if under duress early) and not revert back to bad habits he's showed when under pressure in the past. Steelers Saftey Troy Polamalu (though up in age) is still a disrupter in the secondary and lines up all over the field. The Bears will have to know where he is at ALL times.
The Bears defense has issued an All Points Bulletin for the missing production of Pro-Bowlers Henry Melton and Julius Peppers who have the same amount of sacks as I do through 2 games (Zero). These guys are too talented and well compensated for their services and will need to get it going ASAP. Melton is looking for a contract extension for big money, after the season, and Peppers needs to answer the bell and quiet the skeptics that feel he's just a shell of what he once was (one of the most dominant rush men of his era). The front four has to do the heavy lifting to allow the back seven to make plays in this defense, though Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker likes to mix in an exotic blitz here and there. If the Bears are to win this game, they must not only get to Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger they must harass his throwing arm (force sack fumbles) because he is a load to bring to the turf. My logic is, you can't proceed without the "pig". If you get there, attack the football! This game spells "trap" because Big Ben is the type of Quarterback that can exploit the Bears woes defensively on 3rd down and if the rush isn't a factor that leads to open receivers downfield. Ben is great at making time, and when he has to, TAKING time to make plays with his legs or his arm. On the other side, the Steelers struggles in the run game could put them in a ton of obvious passing situations and the Bears pass rush could wake up this game and be a force. I'm hoping the Bears can keep surging and getting better each week. Take care of business here and it sets up a date with Detroit and a chance to go up 2-0 in the division.