PREGAME STRETCH: Pittsburgh at Chicago
Roethlisberger's road woes, OLine injuries make trip to Chicago dicey
The game: Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) vs. Chicago Bears (0-2), CBS, Sunday, 1 p.m., Soldier Field, 61,500.
Announcers: Greg Gumbel and Trent Green. Well then, after a week of Kenny Albert and Ronde Barber, these two look like Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier, don’t they? As an aside, with the way the media is slobbering over the job Tony Romo is doing with the CBS No. 1 team, we really hope that’s who ends up doing Pittsburgh at Kansas City in a few weeks.
Information courtesy www.the506.com
Weather – or not: Mostly sunny, 87. With a Bermuda High set up, it’s been nothing but sunshine and summer temps for this third week of September for the eastern U.S. You saw last week the impact the still-high sun can have with two Steelers linemen benched by cramps and it’ll be hotter this week in Chicago.
Information courtesy www.accuweather.com
Referee: Clete Blakeman. From perhaps the worst white hat in the league last week in Ol’ Blind Pete Morelli to perhaps the best this week. Blakeman’s ascent as one of the league’s top officials culminated in his first Super Bowl in 2016. For the last three years, Blakeman’s crews have called an above average number of penalties, which likely isn’t good news for the Steelers, who are the league’s most penalized team through two weeks of the season. Also, despite perception, penalties leaguewide are actually down so far this year at about 12.5 enforced per game this year vs. 13.5 per last year.
Information courtesy www.footballzebras.com, www.profootballreference.com and www.nflpenalties.com (it takes three, count ’em, three web sites to provide you with the best each week in officiating background information).
The last time: Ben Roethlisberger’s 400 yards passing were nowhere near enough as Jay Cutler and the well-balanced Bears spanked the Steelers, 40-23, at Heinz Field in September 2013 Sunday night game to move Pittsburgh to 0-3 in what turned out to be a forgettable season. Five different Bears scored TDs, one passing, two rushing and two defensive, a 33-yard Pick Six by Major Wright and a 42-yard fumble return by Julius Peppers to set the final score.
The line: Pittsburgh -7.5/44
Smarts say: This opened at -8 and 46.5. About 78 percent of bettors were on the Steelers as of midweek. After two 46.5s and two unders, the over/under here dipped to 44, which would mean something like Steelers 26-18.
Information courtesy www.pregame.com
When the Steelers have the ball:
PIT offense, 11th passing, 29th rushing, 11th scoring (23.5 ppg), 8th sacks allowed (3)
CHI defense, 24th passing, 15th rushing, 29th scoring (26.0 ppg), 18th sacks (4)
When the Bears have the ball:
CHI offense, 15th passing, 26th rushing, 25th scoring (12.0 ppg), 14th sacks allowed (5)
PIT defense, 5th passing, 8th rushing, 6th scoring (13.5 ppg), 2nd sacks (9)
So…: Through two weeks, the Steelers vaunted pass defense is carrying the team while the middling offense is doing just enough to win. Yep. Just like we all predicted.
Information courtesy www.nfl.com
> Bears RT Bobby Massie vs. Steelers DE Cam Heyward.
Why: Cam Heyward has never been to a Super Bowl, selected 31st in the first round in 2011, the year after Pittsburgh’s last appearance in the big game. However, if he keeps playing like he did against the Vikings, he’ll be in one shortly. Heyward has gone from good to very good to great in his Pittsburgh career and appears now to be on the brink of stardom. His versatility – he can play 1- or 3- tech on a two- or four-man line or 5-tech in a 3-4 – is perfect for Pittsburgh’s amorphous (look it up) defense. Heyward completely controlled the Vikings offense, especially in the first half, with both run stuffing and pocket collapsing and the Bears’ Massie will need to play significantly better than his reputation to keep Heyward from wreaking havoc again.
Player on the spot:
Mike Glennon’s clunker Sunday (two INTs and a fumble lost) led to howls for No. 1 overall pick Mitch Trubisky, but Coach John Fox is having none of it (yet) meaning the fan bullseye will be on the veteran this week. Glennon played well in his one start against the Steelers while wearing a Tampa Bay uniform, throwing for 302 yards and two TDs and leading the Bucs to a 27-24 win at Heinz Field.
+ If you want to get a bad feeling about this game, let us help you. Mike Tomlin hasn’t had a team start 3-0 since 2010 when they started 3-0 and eventually lost in the Super Bowl to Green Bay. They had a very good chance to start 3-0 last year but went into Philadelphia against a rookie quarterback and laid a gigantic egg. Also, the Steelers franchise has won only ONE game in Chicago in its history and that was in 1995 when they beat the Bears in November en route to Super Bowl XXX, which they lost to the Cowboys. In 2009, Pittsburgh had a very good chance to win in Chicago but laid a fourth-quarter egg in a 17-14 loss.
+ Even more impressive than the evolution of Heyward from good to great is the path Marcus Gilbert has taken from an immature, clumsy rookie liability to one of the best and most reliable tackles in football. It’s a huge deal that Gilbert likely won’t go Sunday because Allie Villanueva has had a rocky start at left tackle. Keep an eye on Gilber’s replacement, Chris Hubbard, early and gauge whether Pittsburgh is forced to go with a lot of three-step drops to combat protection issues.
+ We’re not bothered by James Harrison’s lack of playing time in the least as long as Pittsburgh is winning football games. That said, we agree with Mike Tomlin that it’s highly likely there will come a game when Harrison is needed to be the Harrison of last year.
The pick: We do not believe for a second this will be a laugher. First, Road Roethlisberger. Enough said. Second, a makeshift offensive line and still sluggish Le’Veon Bell might not provide another offensive option. Finally, we think Mike Glennon can play a game very similar to what DeShone Kizer did in Week 1. We think the Steelers will have enough to win, but not cover … Pittsburgh 24-21.
Last week: Well, we’ve gone and done it again, not only hitting straight up and against the spread last week, but also pegging the Martavis Bryant vs. Trae Waynes matchup last week as the key to the game. That leaves us unbeaten at 2-0 and 2-0.