Position-by-Position Breakdown for Bears vs. Steelers
|Sunday, November 7, 2021, 10:13 AM- -|
The Bears travel to Pittsburgh with their 3-5 record to take on the 4-3 Steelers in primetime on Monday night football. Neither team has been putting a primetime-level product on the field this season, especially offensively, but let's dive in and see where the Bears may have an advantage.
Justin Fields had his best day as a pro last week against the 49ers, passing for 175 yards and a touchdown and running for 103 yards and a score. He had a couple of "wow" plays, too, highlighted by the 22-yard touchdown run after escaping multiple pass rushers. Fields still needs to cut down on some mistakes – mainly taking unnecessary sacks instead of throwing the ball away – but he took a big step last week, and hopefully he can continue to grow on
it. It is also worth noting that the coaching staff finally started using him the way they should be each week. He had 41 dropbacks, and these were his stats on designed rollouts out of the pocket: Passing - 4/4, 40 yards, TD; Rushing – 89 of his 103 yards.
The Steelers still have Ben Roethlisberger under center. He is not the player he used to be, but he still has made some productive plays over the past couple of weeks. With that being said, he still will try to push the ball downfield and make a few questionable throws to give the defense a chance at forcing a turnover.
David Montgomery may be returning from the IR this week, and this would be very much welcomed for the Bears. Khalil Herbert continued his good play in Montgomery's absence last week and has earned himself some snaps even if Montgomery comes back this week. Steelers rookie RB Najee Harris has been pretty impressive in his first year, but this was expected. He was their first-round draft pick, who is a true three-down back and a freak athlete. Stopping him and making Big Ben beat you with his arm will be a key to the Bears getting the win this week.
This year, Allen Robinson has not looked like himself, still only bringing in 26 catches through the first eight games. Darnell Mooney has been the number one receiver this year in yards and receptions, but he only has 33 catches. There is talent here for the Bears, but it just is not being used in their scheme or game plan. The Steelers are led by speedster Diontae Johnson and second-year player Chase Claypool at wide receiver. Both are talented and effective but are also used very often in the passing attack.
Cole Kmet has put together a couple of consecutive multi-catch games, which is nice to see. Jessie James caught his first TD of the year last week, too, so it was nice to see the tight end position be more involved. I think this is very important to getting Fields more efficient, but we will see if it happens. Pittsburgh has started using rookie Pat Freiermuth much more, especially in the redzone. Backup tight end Eric Ebron is also a big receiving threat.
The Bears' offensive line had another decent week against the 49ers, but they have a much bigger challenge this week against a top-tier Steelers front seven. Having rookie Larry Borom helped, and hopefully, Tevin Jenkins will come back later this year. The Steelers also have a shaky offensive line, having lost a few starters from last year's team. There is some opportunity here for the Bears to exploit their line, but they still have been more consistent than the Bears line this year.
Both of these teams have their strengths on the defensive side of the ball, and that starts with the defensive line. Veteran Cameron Heyward leads the Steelers line. He is a beast that can disrupt the pass and run game. The Bears are fully healthy upfront and will suit up Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman. I give the slight advantage to the Bears here.
The Steelers and Bears both would consider their linebacking group to be the strength of their team. Led by All-Pro TJ Watt, the Steelers have a great group, including Devin Bush and Joe Schobert. The Bears group looks like it will be without Khalil Mack again, which is a big loss, and he was missed very much last week. Even without Mack, the group remains strong with Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, and Roquan Smith. Smith currently is tied for the second-most tackles of any player in the NFL with 81. With Mack likely being out, the edge here will go to the Steelers.
The Chicago secondary did not have a great week last week. They let Jimmy Garoppolo look great, which he had not done much of all year before this. I do think they will have a chance to force some turnovers with some unwarranted Big Ben throws, but they have been hot and cold as a group this season. The Steelers have a very good secondary with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds at safety and Joe Haden at corner. Overall the Steelers' defense is great, and the secondary is a big reason why.
Kicker Cairo Santos finally missed his first kick of the season on the extra point to tie the game against the 49ers before the wheels fell off. He is, however still perfect on field-goal attempts. Steelers kicker Chris Boswell is coming off concussion protocol and still questionable. It is also worth noting that their kick and punt returner, Ray-Ray McCloud, can be dangerous. Still, with the kicking advantage, the Bears get the nod here.