Steelers Need To Revisit Recent Past To Avoid Ugly Future
By Marc Jenkins
The Pittsburgh Steelers have opened up the 2013 campaign with consecutive unimpressive losses, which has earned them a 0-2 record to begin the year for the first time since 2002. In Week 2, the Steelers followed up their 16-9 defeat to the Tennessee Titans with a lethargic 20-10 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.
Coach Mike Tomlin is searching for answers on both sides of the football to put together a victory in Week 3 versus the Chicago Bears to avoid the franchise’s first 0-3 start since 2000. The best way for Pittsburgh to earn a victory in its upcoming Sunday Night home matchup versus Chicago is to capitalize on the Bears’ weaknesses. Here are those area where the Steelers should attack the Bears in order to avoid an 0-3 beginning to the 2013 season.
Pass the Ball Aggressively and Successfully
So far this season, QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ passing attack has suffered mightily due to opposing defenses not respecting or fearing the run game, which has allowed them to key on the air attack. The Steelers are ranked 26th in the NFL with 198.5 passing yards per game while the Bears’ defense is ranked 17th against the pass. Chicago’s defense is also allowing 25.5 points per contest – 22nd in the league – which means the Steelers should be able to put points on the board against them. Considering the Bears’ offense is scoring 27.5 points per game (T-6th) that is exactly what Pittsburgh offense will have to do to ensure a victory.
It’s not unthinkable that Big Ben can get things in gear this week and improve on the numbers that he has posted so far (41-70 for 442 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions through two games). To this point, the Bears’ defense has been more opportunistic than stout. In short, if two of the Steelers’ top three wideouts (Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery) can have solid days against the Bears secondary, it would bode well for Pittsburgh. Brown has voiced his displeasure regarding the lack of targets he has received thus far, so Roethlisberger will certainly make a contentious effort to get the ball into his top playmakers hands more often this week. Roethlisberger has suggested rookie Markus Wheaton will start to get more involved in the offense, which could go a long way in opening up the offense in the same kind of way Mike Wallace did the last several years.
Make the “Other Players” Beat You
Bears QB Jay Cutler has constantly displayed the tendency of keying on his main guys to make things happen in the passing game and this season is no exception. Through two games, the quintet of Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett has accounted for all 48 receptions and 68 of the 71 targets.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is a noted defensive mastermind with an able shadow cornerback in Ike Taylor, so Pittsburgh has a shot at limiting Marshall’s impact (like he did with the Bengals’ A.J. Green in Week 2). As a result, the Steelers’ linebackers and defensive backs will be left to put a lot of its resources into corralling Forte, Jeffery and the two Bennetts.
The Steelers’ defense hasn’t created a turnover so far this season, which is one of the major reasons they remain winless. The Bears’ offense, on the other hand, has turned the ball over five times. If Pittsburgh can capitalize on that stat with some effective and timely play, then it could prove the difference in between a win and a loss.
The Steelers are tied for 30th in the NFL with a minus-four differential in the all-important takeaway/giveaway category. Cutler has thrown three interceptions in two games this year and has proven to be erratic at times throughout his career with 103 picks in 95 career games. If the Steelers can put some pressure on him, they should be able to create the precious turnovers that have eluded them this season.
If Tomlin can get his team to win in these three areas, then the Steelers should come away with their first win of the year. If not, then it could get worse before it gets better in Pittsburgh with a road trip to Minnesota looming in Week 4.