The 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers will play the 0-2 Chicago Bears at Soldier Field Sunday afternoon in a Week 3 matchup and ahead of that game kicking off, there are several key storylines worth pointing out.
Below are what I consider to be the top five storylines for both teams ahead of Sunday’s game that will kickoff at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Windy City woes for the Black and Gold – Past history has now bearing on an NFL game, right? While that certainly might be true, the fact that the Steelers are 1-11 in Chicago all-time and dating back to 1936 still has a lot fans of the team nervous ahead of Sunday’s game and additionally when you throw in the fact that Pittsburgh is 11-5 on the road under head coach Mike Tomlin when favored by 7-points or more. Tomlin is also 0-2 against the Bears since becoming the Steelers head coach in 2007. If it’s of any comfort to you, only four players on the Steelers 2017 roster were on the team in 2009 when the team last lost to the Bears in Chicago and they are quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, guard Ramon Foster, outside linebacker James Harrison and cornerback William Gay.
Will Tuitt be able to do it? – After suffering a left biceps injury in the Steelers Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns, defensive end Stephon Tuitt missed the team’s Week 2 home game against the Minnesota Vikings. While Tuitt was able to practice fully some this past week, he still wound up being listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bears on the Friday injury report. Tuitt refrained from guaranteeing he would play against the Bears when he talked to the media on Friday so he might wind up being a game-time decision. With the Steelers scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4 and combined with that fact that backup defensive end Tyson Alualu has played well thus far in Tuitt’s absence, don’t be surprised if Tomlin ultimately decides to sit his former second-round draft pick against the Bears.
Wheaton to make 2017 debut against former team – Bears wide receiver Markus Wheaton hasn’t had a lot of luck so far since leaving the team that originally drafted him as he’s missed his new team’s first two regular season games due to a broken pinky he suffered in mid-August that ultimately required surgery. If that’s not enough, Wheaton needed an emergency appendectomy in late July. The Bears really need Wheaton to hit the ground running Sunday against the Steelers as their wide receiver position group has taken a huge hit due to Cameron Meredith and Kevin White being lost for the remainder of the year due to injuries. Wheaton last played in an NFL game in Week 5 of the 2016 regular season with the Steelers.
Bears wounded on offensive line – While the Bears look to get veteran guard Kyle Long back from injury this week end, he hasn’t played in a game since Week 10 of the 2016 regular season. Additionally, Bears starting right guard Josh Sitton is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Steelers due to a rib injury. In short, the Bears might be forced to let Hroniss Grasu start at center against the Steelers so that usual starting center Cody Whitehair can start at the guard spot opposite Long. The Steelers defensive line has been impressive so far in their first two games and even without Tuitt, who has logged all of two snaps in the first two games due to his aforementioned bicep injury. Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave both probably can’t wait to get on the field Sunday to attack the Bears makeshift offensive line. Additionally, Steelers left outside linebacker Bud Dupree has a favorable Sunday matchup against Bobby Massie awaiting him. Throw in the fact that Bears quarterback Mike Glennon is very sack-able and the Steelers pass rush could have a field day in Chicago.
Waiting for the Bell to toll loudly – Statistically, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell hasn’t had a good start to the 2017 regular season as he’s averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in the team’s first two games on 37 total totes. Additionally, Bell is averaging just 2.7 yards receiving on seven total receptions entering Week 3. While fingers will point to Bell’s futility being a result of him missing all of training camp and the preseason due to his holdout, the Steelers offensive line hasn’t been great in the first two games just the same. Throw in some way below-the-line blocking by the Steelers tight ends and wide receivers in the first two games and it’s easy to see why the Bell has yet to toll loudly for Pittsburgh so far this season. Sunday in Chicago, however, the Steelers offense will face a 3-4 defensive front for the first time this season and that should play in their favor. The Bears will also be without the services of inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski against the Steelers so that means former undrafted free agent Christian Jones will likely be forced to start alongside Danny Trevathan and thus that should play into the favor of Bell and the Steelers running attack.