These aren’t the ’85 Bears, but they’re the best team the Steelers will have seen this season.
Granted, there’s a limited sample size in that regard.
But the Bears get the edge over the Bengals in that department, not based on Chicago’s 24-21 victory over Cincinnati on Sept. 9 but because of what the Bears have at running back, what they have at quarterback and because of how opportunistic they still are on defense.
So the degree of difficulty for the Steelers ratchets up once again on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
The difference in quarterback Jay Cutler in terms of demeanor and discipline has been noticeable this season.
He made a bad decision on what became a tip-pick on first-and-goal from the Minnesota 1-yard line last Sunday and lost a fumble that wound up being returned for a
But Cutler has also led the Bears on fourth-quarter comebacks twice in two tries this season, including the execution of a 10-play, 66-yard drive against the clock,
the rain and the Vikings that produced the winning touchdown with 10 seconds
Only Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan have more fourth-quarter comebacks than Cutler’s 19 since 2007.
Cutler gets the ball out when he has to and gets out of the pocket when he needs to working behind an offensive line that includes rookie right guard Kyle Long and rookie right tackle Jordan Mills. Cutler is mobile and accurate and can run or throw on the run. He’s been sacked once in two games.
Running back Matt Forte has emerged as the two-pronged threat the Bears wanted him to be this season. He’s already caught 15 passes (Chicago’s stated goal is 60 to 70 receptions for Forte) and is averaging 3.7 yards per carry on 38 rushing attempts. He looks every inch the part of a three-down, feature back.
Targets for Cutler beyond Forte include tight end Martellus Bennett (6-foot-6) and wide receivers Brandon Marshall (6-4) and Alshon Jeffrey (6-3). Bennett, an under-achiever previously in Dallas and with the New York Football Giants, has three receiving TDs. Marshall will be thrown to deep down the sideline against any team that plays a single-high safety.
The defense starts with a four-man front that likes to penetrate and shoot gaps against the ground game, which means the Steelers’ revival of their outside-zone blocking
scheme may have to wait another week. The Bears didn’t stuff Vikings running back Adrian Peterson but they at least contained him (26 carries, 100 yards, no rushing touchdowns).
Generating pressure has been a problem. The Bears don’t sell-out blitz much and have just two sacks. Opponents have converted 51.9 percent of their third-down attempts. End Julius Peppers (two tackles, one quarterback pressure) has been almost invisible.
Chicago still thrives on turnovers, as it did a season ago. The Bears have five of those so far on defense (one that became a defensive TD) and one on special teams.
They stripped Peterson last week.
They pick-sixed Christian Ponder last week.
The Bears even stole the ball from Minnesota tight end John Carlson on the squib kick that followed what became the game-winning touchdown. That capped a special-teams afternoon that included a Bears-record 249 kickoff-return yards from Devon Hester. Chicago also hemorrhaged a 105-yard kickoff return TD to Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson.
Kicker Robbie Gould connected on a 58-yard field goal the previous week against
These Bears aren’t unbeatable but they’re capable and combustible.
It’s going to take more than the Steelers have shown this season to beat them.