A Play Away

Lake Forest - Rex Grossman was officially promoted to No. 2 on the depth chart Wednesday, fanning the flames of an unusual quarterback controversy in which starter Kyle Orton is taking fire despite the Bears' eight-game winning streak.

"It's a unique situation," Grossman said. "That's all I can say."

Grossman, who began training camp as the entrenched starter but is coming off almost four months of recovery and rehab following a fractured ankle on Aug. 12, appears close to 100 percent healthy. Orton is coming off a 6-for-17 passing performance that produced just 68 yards, and he was sacked three times for minus-19 yards, leaving the Bears with a net of 49 yards and the rookie with a passer rating of 23.7.

If Orton has a similar first half Sunday against the Steelers at Heinz Field, Grossman is expected to get the call.

"It's easy to say on the sidelines, 'Yeah, I would've done that (differently),'" Grossman said. "But, at the same time, we threw for 60-some yards. If you're asking me if I feel like I could throw for more yards than that in a game, yes I could. But I'm not doing it. It's easy for me to say that here, sitting in the locker room.

"I don't want to be sitting here saying, 'Yeah, I could do better than that.' It's a team sport. It's not just the quarterback. There are a lot of different aspects, but it's pretty obvious we need to get better in the passing game."

Grossman was the No. 3 quarterback the past two weeks, and it would have taken an emergency situation for the Bears to put him on the field. But it won't be a surprise to see him on the field this week if Orton falters again.

"I'm ready this week," Grossman said. "I just keep getting better every week, and I'm real confident that I'm healthy enough to go out there and play. If I'm not 100 percent, I'm right there."

While most teammates downplayed the quarterback situation, Pro Bowl wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad weighed in with some left-handed compliments for the rookie quarterback.

"I don't think anyone would have expected Kyle to be the guy to do what he's done, leading us to victories; or should I say not losing any games for us," Muhammad said. "(But) if you're looking to improve the team, offense is definitely one way to improve the team. And if you look at the positions, the quarterback position is where we lost our starter and where, of late, we've struggled.

"I think Kyle will admit he's struggled in the last game. So to have Rex back and now taking snaps in practice, I don't think that (controversy) is unexpected. Everybody expected Rex to be back at the end of the season. I think the most unexpected thing is for us to be 9-3 without Rex."

Muhammad failed to catch a single pass last week, ending a streak of 51 straight games with at least one reception, although he said: "When I look back at the film, and I evaluate myself and how I played, I thought I played extremely well. The fact that I didn't catch the ball wasn't all my fault."

Orton doesn't think it was all his fault, either.

"It's just time for everybody to step up," he said. "Even if the look isn't there, just go ahead and make the play, just beat your guy and make a play. If that's me throwing a perfect ball, then that's me throwing a perfect ball.

Grossman is in his third NFL season, but because of a torn ACL in his right knee in Week 3 last season and this year's injury, he has started only six games, half as many as Orton. But Grossman left no doubt that he's anxious for start No. 7, or at least some quality playing time, while downplaying the effect of the controversy.

"It's not a distraction," Grossman said. "I'm preparing as if I'm playing, so if that happens to be the case, then I'm ready."

The only remaining question is Grossman's ability to move in the pocket and escape the rush from a Steelers defense that ranks No. 10 in sacks. He said his mobility is fine.

"It's really not that much different from before I got hurt," he said. "I'm confident that I can be as mobile as I was before the injury."

He might find out as early as the second half Sunday.

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