Week 3 Preview: Steelers at Bears, September 24, 2017

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Week 3 Preview: Steelers at Bears, September 24, 2017

Chicago Bears

If Week 1 was a tease, then Week 2 for the Chicago Bears was a good old-fashioned let-down.

After coming within a pair of dropped passes from beating the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, the Bears laid an egg in their first road game of the year. Only a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to Deonte Thompson saved the Bears from suffering an embarassing shutout after coming so close to an upset victory that could have helped changed the narrative surrounding the season.

Instead, the Bears hope to use Week 3 as a bounce-back game and prove that Week 1 was no fluke. The opponent the Bears have to beat to make that happen is a darn good one, though. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0, have a defense that has erased opposing quarterbacks, and an offense – that while it isn’t where it was last year – is still expected to put up a big-time scoring effort.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, and receiver Antonio Bryant are all healthy and active for Sunday’s game. Individually, they’re tough to stop. When they’re all operating at full strength and on the same page, they’re more than a handful and are among the contenders to topple the New England Patriots when the postseason rolls around.

The Bears looked like a functioning professional football team for much of Week 1, while Week 2 was nothing short of a disjointed mess. What does Week 3 have in store for us?

“Never Tell Me The Odds”

The Chicago Bears are 7.5-point home underdogs (with the over/under set at 44) against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Bovada.lv. Chicago did not beat the 7-point spread last week, and is now 14-19-1 against the spread since the start of 2015.

Pittsburgh is 1-1 against the spread this year and 10-5-1 when favored against the line in 2016.

Series History

Despite the Steelers being head-and-shoulders above the Bears as far as Super Bowl appearances and wins are concerned, Chicago is 18-7-1 all-time against Pittsburgh. The Bears have won the two most recent matchups, but Jay Cutler was their quarterback in those games that took place in 2009 and 2013.

Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew

Location: Soldier Field

Noon, CBS (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl), WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Zach Zaidman)

Referee: Clete Blakeman

Expected Starters and Lineups

Bears Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Mike Glennon
  • RB Jordan Howard
  • FB Michael Burton
  • WR Kendall Wright
  • WR Markus Wheaton
  • TE Dion Sims
  • LT Charles Leno Jr.
  • LG Kyle Long
  • C Hroniss Grasu
  • RG Cody Whitehair
  • RT Bobby Massie

Bears Defense Expected Starters:

  • DE Akiem Hicks
  • NT Eddie Goldman
  • DE Mitch Unrein
  • OLB Willie Young
  • ILB Christian Jones
  • ILB Danny Trevathan
  • OLB Leonard Floyd
  • CB Marcus Cooper
  • CB Prince Amukamara
  • FS Eddie Jackson
  • SS Quintin Demps

Bears Specialists: 

  • Connor Barth (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Andrew DePaola (long snapper), Deonte Thompson (kick returner), Tarik Cohen (punt returner)

Steelers Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Ben Roethlisberger
  • RB Le’Veon Bell
  • FB Roosevelt Nix
  • WR Antonio Brown
  • WR Martavis Bryant
  • TE Jesse James
  • LT Alejandro Villanueva
  • LG Ramon Foster
  • C Maurkice Pouncey
  • RG David DeCastro
  • RT Christopher Hubbard

Steelers Defense Expected Starters:

  • DE Cameron Heyward
  • NT Javon Hargrave
  • DE Stephon Tuitt
  • OLB Bud Dupree
  • ILB Ryan Shazier
  • ILB Vince Williams
  • OLB James Harrison
  • CB Joe Haden
  • CB Artie Burns
  • FS Mike Mitchell
  • SS Sean Davis

Steelers Specialists:

  • Chris Boswell (kicker), Jordan Berry (punter, holder), Kameron Canaday (long snapper), JuJu Smith-Schuster (kick returns), Antonio Brown (punt returns)

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Bears – Offense

Jordan Howard has been playing with a sprained AC joint, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. It could be a reason evaluators who spoke with Rapoport believe he’s running tentatively. The Bears insist Howard is running the same, but his 2.7 yards per carry average says otherwise. Opposing rushing attacks have been stymied by the Steelers in the first two games, but the Bears will need to establish a ground game if it seeks a puncher’s chance at an upset.

If the Bears can get anything going on the ground, Markus Wheaton’s upside could be on display in the passing game. Wheaton is only two years removed from averaging 17 yards per catch with the Steelers, and the 5-11 receiver has a history of breaking out with a big play. However, doing it is probably a bit easier with Ben Roethlisberger slinging the ball, Le’Veon Bell lined up in the back field, and Antonio Brown on the other side of the field. Chicago’s offense has been pass-heavy through two weeks, throwing the ball more than 70 percent of the time. The Bears should be seeking balance in Week 3.

Chicago Bears – Defense

The Steelers have quietly been one of the NFL’s deeper teams in recent years, but Leonard Floyd going up against Marcus Gilbert’s replacement at right tackle could lead to some pass rush opportunities against Roethlisberger. The Bears will need Floyd and the other pass rushers to get in on the quarterback to disrupt timing and give the secondary a fighting chance against a passing offense that is as good as it gets in the NFL.

Prince Amukamara’s debut and his potential one-on-one matchup against Antonio Brown could be the must-watch matchup of the game. The Vikings were relatively successful in limiting Brown’s success when they used Xavier Rhodes to shadow him. However, that allowed Martavis Bryant to break off some huge chunks through the air, including a 27-yard touchdown reception. Dealing with the multiple weapons the Steelers trot out to the gridiron will be the Bears’ biggest challenge of the early season.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Offense

Le’Veon Bell hasn’t found his footing, but his teammates believe Week 3 could be a breakout. Based on how good the Bears’ rush defense has been, Bell’s breakout might have to wait. Opponents are averaging just 3.2 yards per rush attempt, which is what Bell has averaged on 37 carries in 2017. Don’t expect Bell to be held down too long, because his career average rush is a healthy 4.4 yards per carry. But the Bears front seven has looked stout against the run dating back to the preseason.

Antonio Brown is always dangerous, and the Bears can’t double him all the time because of the looming big play threats of Bell and Martavis Bryant. And yet, the Bears might be better off doubling Brown early and often on Sunday. Brown is averaging 15.3 yards per catch and 122 yards per game. He doesn’t have a touchdown, but that’s not a column that’s going to be empty for long.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Defense

James Harrison hasn’t played much this year, but is in line to replace rookie T.J. Watt who looked good in the first two games of his career. Harrison is 39, but has long been a quarterback terror. He has spent 14 of his 15 years with the Steelers, earning five Pro Bowl invitations and a pair of first-team All-Pro nominations. After playing sparingly, he might have his eyes on a breakout game of his own.

The Steelers picked up Joe Haden as a free agent after the Browns cut ties with him late in the preseason. Haden, 28, might be on the downside of his career. He battled injuries in his last few years with the Browns, which could be a reason the team decided to part ways with him when they did, but the name still figures to intimidate some quarterbacks until offensive coordinators are more comfortable attacking him. Haden’s 43.1 grade from Pro Football Focus is among the worst for qualifying cornerbacks.

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Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.