For the third year in a row, the Bears find themselves in the midst of a losing streak. It’s a familiar place, as the team lost six in a row last season, and four in a row the season before that. But this year, the Bears are losing for different reasons. No longer is the defense playing lights out, only for the offense to score nine points. Instead, Justin Fields has shown promise leading the offense, while it’s the defense that has allowed opponents to create and maintain momentum. Things will not get any easier for the Bears when they take on the Steelers this week. Not only are they taking on another future Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, but rookie running back Najee Harris has also given Pittsburgh the offensive balance it’s lacked since Le’Veon Bell forced his way out of town. On defense, T.J. Watt headlines a talented front seven, while Minkah Fitzpatrick is always a threat to pick the ball off on the back end. The Bears will have to play significantly better than they did last week to pull off the upset on the road, but if they do, and can accomplish these three keys, they’ll have a chance.
GET RUN DEFENSE BACK ON TRACK
Stopping the run used to be the Bears’ bread and butter, but over the past three weeks it’s gotten progressively worse. In Week 7, they allowed Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon to each run for more than five yards per carry. Against the Bucs, they surrendered 5+ YPC to Leonard Fournette and 6+ YPC to Ronald Jones. Last week was a complete disaster, as Elijah Mitchell managed a whopping 7.6 YPC. Without a stingy run defense, the Bears aren’t able to put themselves in position to unleash their talented pass rushers. Without those pass rushers getting after the quarterback, it’s much harder to create takeaways. The defense really starts up front, on first down, and if they don’t improve it could be a very long night for the Bears.
COVER RECEIVERS WELL DOWNFIELD
Ben Roethlisberger used to be one of the best in the biz at evading sacks and could shrug off pass rushers to extend plays. But as he’s gotten older, he’s become a little easier to bring down. To compensate for that, the Steelers have done a good job of helping Roethlisberger get the ball out more quickly. Part of that is predicated on their talented receivers getting open early. But if the Bears can lock down those receivers一 and they’ve already stopped the run, as mentioned earlier一 that should help the Bears pass rushers get home in time to bring Roethlisberger down.
BUILD ON JUSTIN FIELDS’ BEST GAME
Many considered last week to be Fields’ best game as a pro, and Fields agreed with that assessment on Thursday. But earlier in the week quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo cautioned that Fields would likely experience “peaks and valleys” as he continues to develop in the NFL. The Steelers are much tougher than the 49ers, however. Fields will likely have to climb to an even higher peak to help the offense put points on the board. If he falls into a valley it will be very hard for the offense to overcome.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION
After starting 1-3, the Steelers have gotten in a groove and won three straight games. The defense has allowed an average of 16.3 points over that span, and Harris has started rushing the ball with authority during the win streak too. The Bears on the other hand have trended the other way on their three-game losing streak. Add in the nugget that the Steelers have won 19-straight Monday Night Football games at home, and it seems like the Bears will have a tough time pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Steelers 24, Bears 13