Week 3: Bears-Steelers matchup analysis

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Chicago Bears (2-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2)
Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh - TV: NBC
*TV announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya
*Keys to the game: Matt Forte is evolving as the centerpiece of the Bears' West Coast offense much in the same way Charlie Garner did for the Super Bowl Oakland Raiders 11 years ago under Marc Trestman and Jon Gruden. Forte could see more work as a receiver this week to beat the Steelers' LB-fire blitz, using the blueprint established by Bengals' RB Giovani Bernard last week. That's especially true if WR Brandon Marshall (back) is limited. The rebuilt offensive line has held up in front of QB Jay Cutler, but the Bears are still susceptible to A- and B-gap pressure. Trestman commonly counters with the screen game, and Forte and Michael Bush are well-practiced in baiting linemen inside. The Steelers would move mountains to have a bell-cow running back. Rookie Le'Veon Bell (foot) is likely out again, and the Bears' personnel along the defensive line foretells a long night for Ben Roethlisberger. Using expanded shotgun and three-receiver sets, plus the expected return of TE Heath Miller, would buy Big Ben another count or two to find his short but quick receivers.
*Matchup to watch - Bears NT Stephen Paea and DT Henry Melton vs. Steelers C Fernando Velasco: Paea's strength is against the run, but he made inroads last year as a pass rusher and has graded out as the best defensive lineman on the roster through two games. Velasco, signed last week, isn't even to the point where he can make all the line calls, and Melton has generated plenty of solo and stunt-and-twist game pressure.
*Player spotlight - Bears TE Martellus Bennett: The Steelers sell out to stop the run, but leaving Bennett alone gives Cutler the easy outlet and escape hatch he needs to beat blitzes. Bennett has three touchdown receptions in two games. Watch for him to run deeper routes, hoping to bring SS Troy Polamalu away from the line of scrimmage.
*Fast facts: The Steelers have rushed for fewer than 100 yards in eight consecutive games, the franchise's longest streak since 1935, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Forte and Ravens RB Ray Rice are the only players with at least 5,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards since 2008. ... Roethlisberger is 15-1 at home against the NFC.
Until a consistent playmaker emerges, the Steelers' popgun offense doesn't help Pittsburgh's defense enough to go toe to toe with contending teams.
*Our pick: Bears 28-17

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