What an up and down Monday night game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears, but the home team exits the game with the win and a 5-3 record! In this article I will provide data from Pro Football Focus and takeaways from watching the film.
Let’s start with the offense:
Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth leads the PFF grades with an 85.6 grade along with fullback Derek Watt and wide receiver Diontae Johnson with 70+ grades. Center Kendrick Green and wide receiver James Washington have the lowest grades from the game with below 50 marks.
Pittsburgh’s offense started their first drive quickly after the Steelers defense provided a three and out. On first down the Bears were penalized on the pass attempt with Pittsburgh in an empty set and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing a dangerous interceptable pass to wide receiver Chase Claypool. Steelers running back Najee Harris got the carry on the replay of first down, where tight end Zach Gentry got pushed back cuing a wide angle for Harris and brought down by the unblocked linebacker for only one yard. On second and nine Johnson caught the screen pass with Washington out in front but tackle Dan Moore and Green tripped, unable to get out in front on the two-yard gain. Third and seven now, Roethlisberger threw a nice decisive deep jump ball to wide receiver Chase Claypool who made a good combative catch on the big gain of 26 yards!
On first and ten, Harris got the touch on the ground where guard Trai Turner was beat but enjoyed how he didn’t give up on the play by pushing the pile on the gain of three. The Steelers stayed on the ground but mixed it up with Washington on the jet sweep to the left fooling the defense and good blocks from Claypool and Freiermuth on the gain of 11! First and goal in the red zone and another run on an interesting formation with Moore lined up next to right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and noted great collective blocking including Derek Watt at tight end and Freiermuth where Harris found the hole and ran through two arm tackles to the end zone! Great start for the offense with three 10+ yard plays and a first possession touchdown! Steelers up seven.
The second drive for the Steelers offense began in empty formation with 7:40 in the first quarter with the pass low and behind Freiermuth incomplete. Second and ten Pittsburgh went to Freiermuth again, this time on the flip pass behind Turner’s pulling block where Moore was pushed back by a linebacker who was dragged for nice yards after contact on the gain of nine. Third and one now, from a heavy formation Harris gets the handoff and despite penetration allowed between Turner and Green is able to wiggle for just enough on the gain of two and third down conversion!
Moore was beat off the edge on the first down play action pass, leaving Roethlisberger no time and allowing the sack. On second and 15 Pittsburgh went with Harris on the ground with Okorafor helping inside, but when he moved to the second level Turner allowed the defender inside and a good tackle on the gain of two. Third and 13 now, the Bears ran a twist rush that got around Moore allowing the hit on Roethlisberger, who was able to get the pass off but short of the sticks into tight coverage and incomplete. Steelers punt still up seven.
With 2:03 left in the first quarter, the Pittsburgh offense starts with great field position and a great result of seven yards on the successful Harris run churning for yards with good blocks from Turner (pulling) and Freiermuth but Green letting his guy in the backfield nearly able to make a play. On second and three the Bears linebackers occupied interior running lanes forcing Harris to bounce the run to the left on the gain of two where Moore’s man got off the block for the tackle. Third and one now and Chicago loads the box with nine defenders, stopping the run for no gain and Green ended up on the ground setting up fourth and one. The Steelers decide to go for it, and stay with the running theme of the drive, this time getting a two-yard gain and the fourth down conversion to end the first quarter!
The Steelers maintained possession to start the second quarter and ran with running back Benny Snell for a gain of five, cutting back behind blocks from Okorafor and Turner with Green a part of offsetting personal foul penalties after the whistle. On second and five in the red zone, Roethlisberger threw a back shoulder to Johnson who made the catch with the defender draped all over him for a nine-yard gain! On first and goal, Roethlisberger got the snap off before the defense could get their personnel set resulting in another Chicago penalty! The following first down Roethlisberger play actioned, pumped, then threw to Claypool but the defender had a nice pass break up and he was more open on the pump. Roethlisberger had time to pass on second and goal, but no one was open and threw it away out of the endzone. Third and goal now, and with fantastic overall pass blocking Roethlisberger has time to redirect Freiermuth who is initially covered well but great communication and chemistry to capitalize in the red zone for the touchdown! Steelers up by 14!
Pittsburgh’s offense got the ball back quick and threw a screen to Claypool where Washington didn’t land his block in front going for no gain. On second and ten, good blocks paired with a good run were nullified by a holding penalty on guard Kevin Dotson setting up second and 18. Back to the run game where the offensive line got a decent push, but Harris gained just four yards. Third and a long 14, Roethlisberger targeted Freiermuth behind the line of scrimmage but could only get seven of the needed yards leading to a three and out and punt. Steelers up 14.
With 6:44 left in the half Roethlisberger completed another flip pass, this time to Watt who was able to gain three yards where Okorafor’s man slipped off his block for the tackle. Harris got a toss on second and seven for a gain of five where Okorafor pulled out in front to create some space setting up third and two. Tight end Kevin Rader got the target here but frustratingly behind the line of scrimmage for no gain and a three and out.
Roethlisberger kneeled to end the half, Steelers lead by 11.
Pittsburgh’s offense came out to start the second half, they started with a screen pass to Johnson but was stopped behind the line but was negated by a roughing the passer penalty on Chicago where Turner got pushed back. To the ground game on the replay first down and Harris is able to get four yards and Freiermuth lost his block leading to the tackle. On second and six Harris got another touch on a short pass, avoiding a tackle and fighting multiple defenders to gain three yards and thought Johnson’s blocking effort was lacking. Third and three now, Roethlisberger pumps then steps up and throws to Washington who is well covered and the pass is broken up, forcing the three and out. Steelers lead still 11.
With 7:38 left in the third quarter, the Steelers finally got another big play to Washington on a 42-yard pass that Roethlisberger dangerously underthrew but lucky this was the result! Harris got the following first down carry where he made the first free rusher miss but Okorafor’s man slipped off his block and the Bears rallied for the tackle on the loss of two. Roethlisberger then faked to Harris and pitched to Johnson on the reverse on second and 12 with Freiermuth getting a good pulling block along with Okorafor and Green out in front on the 11-yard gain. Third and one now and Harris got the carry but Green was pushed back and the play was stopped for no gain, setting up fourth and one. Pittsburgh elects to go for it with an eight-point lead, and they went right back to Harris where Turner and Okorafor got a bit of push on the leap to get just enough for the first down!
On first and ten, Pittsburgh went with a successful jet sweep to Claypool for 11 yards with Freiermuth out in front getting the first down and into the red zone. Harris got the carry on the next first and ten for two yards, with Okorafor getting pancaked backward for him to have to run around. Roethlisberger stepped back on second and eight with good pass protection and targeted Claypool in the endzone in tight coverage but seemed catchable. Third and eight now, Roethlisberger throws it up to Freiermuth who makes the contested catch above the defender despite the defensive pass interference that was declined for his second touchdown catch! Kicker Chris Boswell surprisingly missed the extra point here, Steelers lead by 14.
The Steelers offense returned with 14:17 in the fourth quarter and Chicago started things off with another penalty, this time on defensive pass interference on a deep target to Johnson moving the ball 30 yards! The next first and ten was another flip pass from Roethlisberger, this time to Harris with a good pulling block from Dotson and churning for awesome yards after contact for nine yards. Johnson got a reverse run where Freiermuth had a pancake block, but two defenders were able to chase to the sideline to cut him off for no gain. This set up third and one where Pittsburgh went run again and Green got pushed back on Harris’ no gainer, but Boswell made the field goal! Steelers lead up to ten.
Pittsburgh got the ball right back off the special teams turnover, starting with Harris creating on a 3-yard run where Moore allowed penetration. On second and seven the Bears were bringing pressure off the edge but jumped offsides for another penalty setting up second and two. Washington got the jet sweep here, but only gained a yard after Johnson failed to land his block. Third and one now and Pittsburgh chooses back-to-back jet sweeps, this time to Claypool who has to elude several defenders behind the line but gets the third down conversion with Freiermuth and Dotson missing blocks. First and ten now and Roethlisberger drops back but Turner let a linebacker through untouched for the sack setting up second and 19. Snell got the carry on second and long where Green got beat allowing the tackle for only a yard. Third and 18 now, Roethlisberger targeted Johnson on an out route but the pass was high and incomplete. The Steelers decided to punt here, do you agree or would you have kicked the field goal? Steelers still up by ten.
The offense got the ball back with 6:31 left on a great run by Harris where he showed patience and footwork to get away from the linebacker then get north and south for the 13-yard gain. On the next first and ten Claypool ran a short slant that gained four yards setting up second and six. The interior offensive line got pushed back on the following Harris run, getting stuffed for a loss of one. Third and seven now, Roethlisberger was able to find Johnson on an out route for the first down, and Chicago was called for yet another penalty but the Steelers declined. On first and ten Roethlisberger seemed to want Freiermuth on the flip pass but was covered, so he targeted running back Kalen Ballage on the short pass for two yards. His second and eight pass attempt slipped out of his hand as he tried to pump fake falling incomplete. Huge third and eight here, Roethlisberger has time but holds onto the ball and steps up into the sack by former Steeler Cassius Marsh. Marsh was then flagged for a debatable taunting penalty, but it allowed the first down and extending the drive.
After the penalty Harris ran on first down for three yards, followed by a pass on second and seven but Moore and Dotson were beat leading to another sack. Third and 16 now, Roethlisberger was able to find Johnson for the short catch and run of 11 yards where Chicago took a timeout. The drive ended with a Boswell field goal, Steelers up by six with just under three minutes left.
After leading the whole game, the offense came back with 1:46 on the clock and down by a point. On first down, Harris caught the pass at the line of scrimmage and fantastic effort breaking a tackle and fighting for a positive four-yard gain. Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud ran a good route to get space on second and six for a 12-yard gain and first down. Chicago was penalized on the following first and ten for offsides setting up first and five. Roethlisberger found Johnson on a short slant route wide open over the middle for 22 yards, getting into field goal range and a second offsides in a row for Chicago but declined this time.
Pittsburgh followed the nice Johnson gain with a false start penalty on Moore setting up first and 15. Roethlisberger found Freiermuth who went down to make the grab for a 13-yard gain, where Pittsburgh came up and spiked the ball on second and two to save a timeout if needed. Third and two now, Roethlisberger fakes the handoff and runs himself but is only able to gain one of the two yards needed for the first down where Chicago took their final timeout with 30 seconds left. This set up Boswell to kick a 41-yard attempt…and it’s good! Steelers up by two!
Now let’s look at the defense:
Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward tops the PFF defensive grades with an 85.4 along with linebacker T.J. Watt with a 70+ grade. The lowest graded defenders were linebacker Derrek Tuszka and cornerback Arthur Maulet, both having below 35 grades.
The Steelers defense took the field first where Chicago came out running with David Montgomery where defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs clogged the middle allowing linebacker T.J. Watt enough time to get around his block and make the tackle for two yards. On second and eight, the Bears went back to Montgomery on the ground and cornerback Arthur Maulet did a good job diagnosing and getting in the hole to make the tackle on a gain of three. Third and five now, and Bears quarterback Justin Fields drops back for the first time finding the open wide receiver Allen Robinson short of the sticks but had to dive for the slightly off target catch allowing cornerback Cameron Sutton to touch him down. Three and out opening drive for the Steelers defense!
Pittsburgh’s defense came back with 9:37 on the clock with a seven-point lead, and Chicago started things off with a false start penalty setting up first and 15. The Bears ran a read option where linebacker T.J. Watt committed to the running back and Fields kept it around the edge for eight yards where safety Terrell Edmunds pushed him out of bounds. On second and seven, Chicago suffered their third penalty of the game, negating a first down throw to Robinson setting up second and 12. Steelers defensive lineman Chris Wormley along with linebackers Alex Highsmith and Watt provided good pressure where Fields threw deep right and incomplete with cornerback Joe Haden in coverage. Third and 12 now, Highsmith hits Fields after he steps up to throw to Montgomery short of the sticks where Edmunds made the tackle on the third down stop. Second three and out, up by seven.
With 4:29 left in the first quarter, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward got in the backfield but Montgomery bounced outside, and linebacker Taco Charlton was double teamed allowing a big 21 yard run where safety Minkah Fitzpatrick finally ran him out of bounds. The Steelers defense tightened up on the following run of two yards, where Charlton took advantage of a poor blocking effort by the Bears tight end making the tackle and noted Buggs being pancaked. On second and eight Watt dropped into coverage where Fields was looking to throw and Buggs provided pressure leading to a scramble where Heyward nearly made a play, instead it’s a gain of eight where Edmunds ran him out of bounds but just enough for a first down.
On first and ten Wormley provided a nice inside pass rush but missed the sack opportunity, then when Fields tried to escape he couldn’t get away from Watt who did capitalize on the sack! Second and 11 now, and Heyward is able to get a tipped pass that bounces between he and the offensive lineman and corrals the ball for the rarer end result…the interception! Great back-to-back plays to end the drive, a turnover, and great field position for the offense still up by seven.
The defense returned with 13:13 in the second quarter with running back Khalil Herbert, with Highsmith and Wormley combining for a great run stop on a gain of only one. On second and nine Chicago chose pass but fell incomplete with Sutton in coverage and Fitzpatrick with the hit pressuring the catch. This set up third and nine where Highsmith flushed Fields out of the pocket and he scrambled to the sideline where Fitzpatrick supplied another solid hit on back-to-back plays, forcing the three and out! Steelers up by 14.
With 9:12 left in the half, the Bears got another chunk play on the first play of a drive via a pass to tight end Cole Kmet for 25 yards where Sutton bit on the play action and Fitzpatrick couldn’t get to the sideline in time. Highsmith did a great job fighting through his blocker to stop the next running play for two yards. On second and eight Chicago ran a play action rollout to the right, but that didn’t work too well with that being Watt’s side and he was unblocked for the sack! Third and 19 now, Heyward flushed Fields out of the pocket then Wormley pursues on the completion, but Chicago shoots themselves in the foot again with a penalty setting up third and 23. With the third and long situation a deep pass to Kmet was the choice but overthrown with linebacker Robert Spillane and Fitzpatrick in coverage. Four three and outs and an interception for the defense so far, still a 14-point lead.
The defense returned with 4:47 left in the half to a wildcat look from the Bears with Montgomery handing it to Herbert for a gain of eight where Buggs and Heyward were washed out with defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux making the tackle. On second and two Fields handed off to Montgomery but the Steelers run defense was more stout with Mondeaux in on another tackle with Watt. Third and one now and linebacker Joe Schobert diagnosed quickly and got a hit on Montgomery then Highsmith finished off the run stop for no gain setting up fourth and one. Fields was unfortunately able to get Heyward to jump with a hard count resulting in a huge encroachment penalty and first down for the Bears.
On first and ten Fields scrambled and was able to gain six yards with Schobert taking a poor angle and Sutton running him out of bounds. Another wildcat look on second and four, the Bears pulled two defensive lineman and Montgomery keeps it this time but Charlton is able to fight through traffic and make the tackle for only two yards. Third and two now at the two-minute warning, where Charlton set the edge wide but accelerated to make the tackle along with linebacker Devin Bush and Edmunds near the play but allowing the first down.
First and ten with under two minutes, Fields found Kmet for the seven-yard gain on a tight window throw between Bush and Schobert. Right back to Kmet on second and three, finding space in front of Sutton and Fitzpatrick for another big gain of 22 yards.
This set up first and goal with 57 seconds left, with Chicago going to Montgomery on the three-yard run where Wormley and Mondeaux got pushed back with both Watt and Schobert combining on the tackle. Second and goal now, Fields threw a catchable ball to tight end Jimmy Graham in the end zone, but Haden had good tight coverage and the pass falls incomplete. Third and goal now, and Chicago shoots themselves in the foot with another penalty on a false start! Take two on third and goal and Fields targets Graham for the third straight play in a row, this time cornerback James Pierre providing good coverage. Good job by the defense keeping them out of the end zone but allowing their longest and most successful drive to end in a field goal just before halftime. Steelers lead by 11.
On the Steelers first defensive possession of the second half was against the run with a good combined tackle from Bush and Buggs working off his block. Haden had good coverage on the following out route on second and eight falling incomplete. Third and eight now, Fields scrambles out of the pocket to find Robinson wide open in the Steelers off coverage for a big 17-yard gain and third down conversion! On first down Montgomery got the carry and drug Schobert for most of the ten-yard gain and first down. Fields then connected on a huge 50-yard pass with Fitzpatrick trailing and making the tackle, allowing the Bears into the red zone on the explosive play.
On first and ten, Kmet got the four-yard catch with Haden zooming in on the tackle. On first and goal Montgomery got the carry for a gain of three where Buggs was doubled and even though he got turned around blocked the path to the end zone just enough along with Heyward. The Bears suffered a big low block penalty that negated a touchdown throw to the end zone, so many penalties for the Bears continuously hurt them! On the next second and goal attempt, Fields stepped up from edge pressure but couldn’t get to the sideline on the one-yard gain with Sutton making the tackle. Big third and goal here, Chicago goes screen to Montgomery here and Heyward had great hustle and pursuit to track him down for the tackle and third down stop, which limited them to a field goal. Steelers lead cut to eight.
With 2:04 left in the third quarter, the defense allowed a 12-yard wildcat run by Montgomery right away with Haden getting blocked and Fitzpatrick making the tackle after first down yardage. Fields then kept on a read option where Watt was chasing then he slid down on the gain of five. On second and five Fields found wide receiver Darnell Mooney for his first catch on a big 20-yard gain, finding a spot in the zone between Maulet and Schobert. The last play of the third quarter was a Herbert run for two yards with Bush reading and making a good tackle.
To begin the fourth quarter, Chicago wasted no time getting another big play on a 28-yard completion with Edmunds trailing in coverage and Fitzpatrick making the tackle. First and ten in the red zone and another wildcat formation with Montgomery handing off to the other back in Mooney on the play, Highsmith and Bush took themselves out of the play fully committed to tackle Montgomery which allowed open grass and both Sutton and Edmunds setting the edge allowing the cutback for the touchdown. Six play drive, four of which were 10+ yards, Steelers lead cut to seven and poor start to the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh’s defense came back with 7:58 in the game to an off target throw by Fields with Sutton in coverage. The second down pass went to Mooney for five yards where Edmunds made the tackle. Big third and five here, Fitzpatrick anticipated the slant route Fields wanted leading to Watt’s third sack of the game! Huge three and out leading to a punt, Steelers lead still 10.
With 2:47 left in the game, Chicago went heavy pass as expected down by six. Robinson was able to gain nine on the first and ten catch with Maulet on the tackle. On second and one Fields went deep and just out of the reach of the receiver, and the Steelers caught a break here where Maulet had been beat in coverage. Third and one now, Fields decides to keep on the read option to gain three yards and a first down with Fitzpatrick running him out of bounds.
On the following first and ten Bush had a nice pass break up on Robinson, then on second down had a solid tackle on the Fields scramble for eight yards where Heyward had a shot behind the line of scrimmage. Third and two now at the two-minute warning and Fields connects with a good throw to Robinson for another big play of 39 yards with Maulet in coverage, setting Chicago up in the red zone. The following play also had Maulet in coverage, this time the target was to Mooney for a 16-yard touchdown. With the extra point, the Bears took their first lead of the game…Steelers down by one.
The Steelers defense came back one last time with 26 seconds left, and on first down the pass off target and fell incomplete to Kmet. On second and ten Edmunds was penalized for illegal contact allowing the first down in crunch time. With 16 seconds left Fields completed two 11-yard catches where the defense was playing to keep them out of field goal range. With five seconds left Fields tried one more pass but Watt came up with another big play batting the pass, but by denying additional yards forced the 65-yard field goal with two seconds on the clock…the try is no good! Steelers win!!!
Lastly, let’s look at special teams:
Steelers kicker Chris Boswell kicked off to open the game into the end zone and the returner was met by linebacker Ulysees Gilbert along with wide receiver Cody White on the special teams tackle at the 22-yard line. Ray-Ray McCloud had a good punt return on his first attempt early in the game for 14 yards finding a bit of room on the sideline thanks to Pierre. Derek Watt had a great tackle on the kickoff following the first touchdown, able to run down the returner for the tackle at the 11-yard line. McCloud let his next punt return bounce then fielded it for a gain of six yards. Punter Pressley Harvin’s first attempt went 38 yards and was fair caught at the 12-yard line with Pierre in the vicinity. Watt had another opportunity for a tackle early in the second quarter but even though he missed, redirected the runner limiting his angle and gain on the play where Justin Layne made the tackle. McCloud made the first defender miss on his first punt return of the second quarter, then decided to reverse field but unable to break free on a gain of only three. Harvin punted with 9:19 left in the second quarter, this time a poor 32 yarder that shanked out of bounds at the 48-yard line! His last punt of the half was a 47 yarder that was fair caught at the 36-yard line.
McCloud returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter from the nine-yard line on a tough run for 21 yards with good blocks from Snell and Kalen Ballage! Harvin’s first punt of the second half was an improvement, a 41 yarder that was downed at the seven-yard line by Spillane! McCloud returned a kickoff mid third quarter from the six-yard line and ran tough through contact for a gain of 19. Boswell missed an extra point at the end of the third quarter, limiting the Steelers lead to 14. The following kickoff Layne ran the returner out at the 18-yard line. Boswell made another field goal with 11:58 left in the game from 54 yards out, giving Pittsburgh a ten-point lead! The following kickoff was returned and Pierre got the forced fumble that was recovered by Boswell who took a hit which was unsettling after coming off concussion protocol from last week’s game, huge play here! Harvin punted again with 8:06 left for 39 yards and was nearly batted out of the end zone by Pierre but instead a touchback. McCloud went back for a punt return with 6:48 left in the game but fumbles! Chicago recovered and returned it for the touchdown, what a huge mistake in the situation and the lead cut to three! White was able to run the kickoff returner out of bounds after a 17-yard return late in the fourth quarter. Boswell came on with 30 seconds left and the Steelers down by one point, from 41-yards out the kick is good! This gave the Steelers the lead and the victory!!!
STEELERS VS. BEARS WEEK 9 SNAPS AND 2021 SEASON TOTALS:
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