Bears vs. Steelers Prediction: Must win game on Monday Night Football
|Monday, November 8, 2021, 11:05 AM- -|
Week nine of the NFL season comes to a close Monday night with the Chicago Bears taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers. This begins a stretch of two straight weeks where the Bears won't play on Sunday as next week is Chicago's bye week.
Entering this game sporting a 3-5 record, wins have been hard to come by for the Bears this season, and it won't get any easier tonight. Despite sitting at 4-3, Pittsburgh is playing their best ball of the season right now and can pull within one game of division-leading Baltimore with a win. When you look at how this team looked the first few weeks of the season, you would have never expected them to be in the position they are in right now.
Give credit to Mike Tomlin and his staff, as he is one of the best NFL coaches out there. This is a winnable game for Chicago, but Matt Nagy needs to
stop holding his offense back and open things up offensively for that to happen.
Here are some things to look for as well as a prediction for Bears-Steelers:
A must-win game for Chicago
The NFC playoff picture is wide open, at least for the No. 7 seed as 4-5 Atlanta and Carolina occupy the final spot in the NFC. At 3-5, Chicago is very much alive for that final spot, and should they win tonight can land in a tie with those teams for that final spot.
As bad as things have been for the Bears this season, they are still in playoff contention, which isn't good to hear if you are a Bears. It is no secret that Bears fans want Ryan Pace and Nagy out the door sooner rather than later. Still, after making the playoffs twice in his first three seasons as a coach with a real possibility of getting in for a third time this year, it would be hard to move on from them no matter what the record would be.
Tonight marks the halfway point of the Bears season, and a win will go a long way heading into that bye week. This is a must-win game for Chicago to not only end the losing streak, but to put them right back in the running for the final postseason spot and head into the bye week with loads of confidence.
Containing the Steelers pass rush: The Steelers have long been known to have great defenses going back to the Steel Curtain days. This year is no exception as the Steelers defense continues to be one of the best in the league despite going through some rough patches early.
A big reason for their success is TJ Watt, who continues to be one of the game's best pass rushers. Watt, much like his older brother JJ has a knack for playing with a high motor and making life miserable in the backfield, but that high motor leads to several injuries, which he has dealt with this season.
Still, when on the field, 100% or not, he needs to be accounted for, and the Bears offensive line will have their hands full with him. Fans saw how things turned out against Cleveland during Fields first start, and although not as deep as the Browns, Pittsburgh can get after the QB. Chicago needs to contain that pass rush to help Fields settle in and take the pressure off him.
Significant help on the way
Since going down with a knee injury, the Bears have turned to rookie Khalil Herbert in the backfield to shoulder most of the load. In his limited time as a starter, Herbert has shown a lot as his ability to create something out of nothing makes him a legitimate playmaker for the Bears.
Coming into the season, Herbert was listed as the team's third RB as David Montgomery and Damien Williams were set to take on the majority of the reps. Not only did Herbert benefit from Montgomery going down, but Williams came down with COVID, and he stepped into the team's No. 2 role and will run with it.
Despite his impressive production, Herbert may be losing his starting opportunity this week as Montgomery has a great chance to see the field tonight. Before his injury, Montgomery ranked in the top five in most rushing categories as he was the most consistent player on offense. While it is unclear how many carries Montgomery will have knowing he is coming off an injury, he will be the teams starting back if he is good to go.
A bit of a different runner than the likes of Herbert, Montgomery, and Herbert will make an excellent duo in the backfield. They will be a problem for a lot of defenses, and the Bears offense may finally be on track to put up more consistent numbers.
Prediction: Steelers win a close game
Looking back on the history of these two teams, the Bears have dominated this series from the start and are in the middle of a nice winning streak right now. That is hard to believe when you look at the Steelers' talent level over time and see how successful they have been, but the Bears seem to handle them better than most.
In what will be Fields first Monday night game as a Bears starter, he is facing a ton of pressure as this team needs to get back on track. This is a very winnable game for Chicago, but Pittsburgh is playing exceptionally well right now, and I look for that to continue as they end their losing streak against the Bears 23-20.