Steelers try to remain unbeaten, avoid letdown against Bears
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers’ record is perfect. Their play is not.
They come into Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears not scoring the way they envisioned or forcing turnovers the way they would like.
”No one is going to be perfect,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. ”We know that. We’d like to be as good as we can be. … You don’t want to be playing your best football right now. You want to find ways to win football games and keep getting better so your best football is being played hopefully in December and January.”
The offense has just four touchdowns through two games against Cleveland and Minnesota. The defense has one interception and one fumble recovery.
Then again, the Steelers (2-0) are unbeaten, with soaring expectations after losing to New England in the AFC title game. Their sights are set on their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2010 season and their first championship since the 2008 team won it all.
But the more immediate issue is this: Beating the rebuilding Bears (0-2).
If that seems like a given, well, the Steelers have some letdowns against lesser teams in their recent past. One was even against Bears quarterback Mike Glennon when he was with Tampa Bay.
Last year, Pittsburgh won its first two games, then got pounded 34-3 by Philadelphia. The Eagles went 7-9.
In 2015, the Steelers were surging toward a playoff spot when they lost late in the season to a Baltimore team that finished 5-11.
The loss to Glennon and the Buccaneers in 2014 was particularly bad. The Steelers fell 27-24 – at home – on a touchdown pass in the closing seconds. Oh, and the Bucs won just two games that year.
In 2013, Pittsburgh lost to Tennessee, Chicago and Minnesota in an 0-4 start. All three finished .500 or worse, while the Steelers wound up 8-8.
And in 2012, there were losses to Oakland and Tennessee – teams that finished 4-12 and 6-10, respectively.
The Bears, meanwhile, are a combined 0-8 in three Septembers under coach John Fox. With a Thursday night game at Green Bay coming up, they could be 0-10.
Here are some things to know as the Steelers try to remain unbeaten, while the Bears seek their first win:
LE’VEON’S LOAD: Rust or no rust, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell’s season is off to a sluggish start after he skipped the entire preseason as part of a contract dispute. The 2014 All-Pro has just 138 total yards through two weeks – 19 yards less than he averaged per game in 2016 when his 157 yards per outing led the NFL.
Maybe the biggest key for the Steelers isn’t Bell’s total production but his number of touches. The team is 18-5 during his career when he gets at least 25 touches after he had 31 in last week’s win over Minnesota.
NO CHANGE: Glennon remains the Bears’ starting quarterback. The wait for Mitchell Trubisky continues.
Glennon did nothing to quiet the debate over who should start with his performance in last week’s blowout loss at Tampa Bay. He had two interceptions – with one getting returned for a touchdown – and lost a fumble on a sack , leading to another TD. Playing with a decimated receiving corps and banged up offensive line doesn’t help. But Glennon didn’t do himself any favors, either. If the Bears decide to make a switch after the Green Bay game, they will have some extra time. Their next game after that is a Monday night matchup with Minnesota. They also have a bye in Week 9.
”My goal every week is the same. It’s to win that week and right now we’re trying to get our first win and that’s where my focus is,” Glennon said.
ROAD RUT: For all of their gaudy potential, Pittsburgh’s passing offense doesn’t exactly light it up away from Heinz Field. The Steelers have just 27 touchdown passes on the road since the start of 2014 season, compared to 69 at home over that span. Roethlisberger, however, has just one turnover – an interception – this season and the Steelers can live without the touchdowns so long as he doesn’t give the ball to the other team.
GROUNDED: While the quarterback debate continues in Chicago, it’s not as if the Bears’ running game is soaring. The Bears had 20 yards rushing last week, and Jordan Howard finished with seven yards on nine attempts. The second-year pro has 22 carries for 59 yards through two games- a far cry from his rookie season last year, when he finished second to Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott with 1,313 yards rushing and averaged 5.2 per attempt.
WINDY CITY TROUBLES: The Steelers have not had much luck in Chicago.
They are 1-12 against the Bears in the Windy City and have dropped four of the five games played at Soldier Field. The lone win was in overtime in 1995.
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