Bears vs. Steelers: Sunday Night Football Keys to Victory

Sunday Night Football features a battle between two of the NFL’s most historic franchises when the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) play host to the Chicago Bears (2-0). Despite their long-standing and historic success in the NFL, this will be just the 25th time that the Steelers and Bears will square off.

The winless Pittsburgh Steelers could not be off to a worse start in 2013. Suffering both a defeat to the Tennessee Titans in the home opener, and a divisional loss on the road in Cincinnati, one thing has become apparent—the Steeler offense is lacking. Currently, Pittsburgh holds just two touchdowns to its name, ranking 30th in the NFL.

One reason for the major drop-off from a season ago is the laundry list of injuries, which reads more like a grocery list just three weeks into the season. Season-ending injuries to team leaders like Maurkice Pouncey and Larry Foote will continue to force Pittsburgh to adapt on both sides of the ball.

There is hope for Pittsburgh’s offense. Both rookie RB Le’Veon Bell and TE Heath Miller appear as if they will suit up against the Bears on Sunday. Bell hopes to revive a rushing attack that boasts a whopping 75 yards of total rushing through two contests in 2013—only the David Wilson led New York Giants have run less effectively.

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Heath Miller

As for Miller, his relationship with Roethlisberger is well-documented. Miller had a Pro Bowl type of season for the Steelers in 2012, hauling in 71 catches for 816 yards and 8 scores. If Miller is able to return to his 2012 form, young wideouts Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will continue to open up the outside throws for Big Ben.

Chicago’s start to the 2013 campaign could not be more different than its opponent. Records aside, it has been the play of often-scrutinized QB Jay Cutler, and the two magical fourth quarter comebacks he has already led his offense to on the young season that stand out.

A big weakness one season ago, the offensive line in Chicago has greatly improved. In fact, Cutler has been sacked just once thus far. It is amazing what a signal caller like Cutler can do when he is given time to throw—his completion percentage of 68.1% is 5th among QB’s this season.

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Brandon Marshall

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the season thus far has been the production of Cutler’s new target, Martellus Bennett. Bennett continues to improve on his career-year last season, totaling an astounding 10 catches for 150 yards and 3 TD’s (including the game winner against Minnesota last week). Of course, having the benefit of throwing to an elite receiver like Brandon Marshall doesn’t hurt Cutler’s Bears either. With a strong season by Cutler and Matt Forte’s continued ability to produce out of the backfield, the Chicago Bears could be a dangerous team in the NFC North and for the remainder of the regular season.

The feature matchup in this one will be to see if Dick LeBeau and his Steeler D can intimidate the Chicago Bears offense at the helm of Mark Trestman. In a true test of Trestman’s brilliance, this will be the first contest in which he faces LeBeau’s 3-4 defense, which oh by the way ranks 10th in points allowed in the NFL. Though the Bears do feature a balanced offensive attack, Pittsburgh has shown they can shut down opposing team’s playmakers. Under the tutelage of LeBeau, Ike Taylor was able to limit Cincinnati’s biggest player, A.J. Green, to just three catches and 18 yards. If Taylor can lock down Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and the front three can limit Forte’s ground attack, Pittsburgh might have a chance in this one.

Though neither defense is as vaunted as they once were, defense will be the key in this one. Despite iconic names like Urlacher and Harrison being omitted from the rosters, there won’t be a lack of physical play come Sunday night. The Steelers may figure out their woes and pull-out an upset in front of the Steeler-faithful at Heinz Field. Jay Cutler and company will drive late, but ultimately fall flat against Pittsburgh’s coverage.

Prediction: Steelers-20, Bears-17

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