Today is a pretty big game. The Pittsburgh Steelers have done a lot of work clawing themselves out of a hole they’d dug on their own, going from a 1-3 start to now 4-3, a game out of first place for the lead in the AFC North entering the week. Today, they can get two games over .500 and further establish themselves as a competitive team.
That’s not necessarily because of the quality of opponent, even if the Chicago Bears should by no means be mistaken as some pushover, especially as they get their running game healthy. While they are working through the growing pains of a project rookie quarterback, this is still a unit with talent.
Granted, they are without one of their very best players in edge Khalil Mack, which is certainly a lucky break, but it’s not like they weren’t able to generally prevent Myles Garrett last week from taking over the game, that while paired with Jadeveon Clowney.
Still, you want to see the Steelers be able to put up more than the 15 points they managed last week. Granted, that can be partially attributed to the loss of Chris Boswell, which cost them perhaps five or so points…but 20 points often isn’t enough, either.
So today, we’re looking for continued efficiency, and one thing I want to focus on is the penalties. The offense in particular has been penalized with far too much frequency this season, and that has been especially an issue for the offensive line, both with pre-snap and post-snap penalties. They had the officials in this week at practice. Whether or not that helps at all, we’ll see.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada appears to be opening up his offense a bit more each week, and I would expect to see the expansion continue today, little by little, perhaps with second-year running back Anthony McFarland—who, again, he coached with success in college—getting in on a small handful of package plays.
Defensively, you want to see how the edge rush plays out with Taco Charlton getting his second game action after replacing Melvin Ingram on the 53-man roster. T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are two guys who are capable of going the distances, but they don’t want to wear them out. They also don’t want to put a guy in there who is going to lose contain on Justin Fields.
While keeping Fields from hurting them with his legs will be a focus, they also have to concern themselves with the Bears’ running game. Rookie Khalil Herbert has been effective, and they figure to be getting David Montgomery back. Combine that with Fields’ increased consciousness of his ability to run, and this could be an issue.