When I think about a Bears/Steelers game, I picture Jerome Bettis running over Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on a snowy December day at Heinz Field. Of course, that is a ghost of a memory. Bettis has since retired and the Bears that the Steelers faced today were a different Chicago Bears, with a new general under center.
A lot of time has passed since the last time the Bears and Steelers met up, and a lot of history to these meetings. Since 1934, the Bears have had the Steelers number for the majority of the time, especially at Soldier Field, where the Bears have won 11 games over the Steelers one. As of today, make that 12 games to the 1 the Steelers have won.
If we thought the game was a given, especially given Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s performance last week, perhaps a reminder of Jay Cutler against the Steelers defense in Denver might have jogged our memories. Last time Cutler faced the Pittsburgh defense, the game came down to a last minute field goal that clinched the win for Denver. One has to wonder if these are déjà vu moments.
Under center now in a different uniform, Cutler brought the Bears back from behind twice to tie the game and then drove the field for enough yards to give their kicker, Robbie Gould a chance to win the game, something the Steelers kicker Jeff Reed had a chance to do, twice, and just couldn’t seem to get it done. The mojo at Soldier Field still runs strong against the Steelers.
Going into the game, one had to wonder how the defenses would perform with the loss of Brian Urlacher for the Bears and Troy Polamalu for the Steelers. Last week the Bears kept Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers to under 200 yards passing, although the Steelers gave up over 244 with the early loss of Polamalu. This week, passing defense for both teams gave up over 200 yards a piece. In the end, both defenses stepped up to make the plays necessary to shut down drives to give their offense a chance.
It was a shock for the Steelers fan to see kicker Jeff Reed miss not one, but two field goals in a row, especially given the accuracy that Reed has had over his career in Pittsburgh. Even I’ll admit, I thought the game was in the bag only to groan watching the ball miss the uprights twice.
Despite the loss, there were positives that came from the game for the Steelers. Not only did offensive line hold up, providing pretty good pass protection (let’s face it, there were numerous times that Roethlisberger had almost all day to throw), but somehow, just some how, the Steelers were able to run for a combined 107 yards. Running back Rashard Mendenhall seemed to have atoned for his miscue last week, with a catch that he kept the presence of mind to get up and run for 39 yards. Seeing Stefan Logan bringing back kickoff returns longer then 5 yards was also a bright spot to the day. With Logan, one gets the sense that one of these days we’ll see him bring one back for six.
Don’t get me wrong, there were negatives too. Despite his ability to cover the best receivers in the league, cornerback Ike Taylor missed the opportunity for a pick six. Center Justin Hartwig, for the second time this season, missed the opportunity to draw an off sides penalty, when a Bears offensive player crossed the line and jumped back quickly. Secondary often played too soft in zones allowing for completions (not to mention the 200+ yards). I won’t mention some of the obvious play calling by the Steelers OC that left me scratching my head (how often do I have to scream at the tv, no huddle, go no huddle?). Of course, there's still the issue with one single running back able to rush for substantial yardage.
There’s a lot of season left and no doubt, the Steelers will take this loss and learn from it. I’m just hoping that my heart will hold out if all season plans on being nail biters.