The Bears have been able to run the ball pretty well against some of the NFL's best run defenses this season, getting 122 yards against the No. 2 Panthers and 118 against the No. 8 Bucs, and they face another big challenge this week against the Steelers, who are No. 4 in rushing yards allowed. But, especially with rookie QB Kyle Orton struggling to make the passing game work, it's even more important for the Bears to establish a strong ground presence.
"We're going to have to try to run the ball and continue to run it and stay with it but we're going to have to also make some plays in the passing game and when the opportunities present themselves we'll take our shots and we'll try to make some plays," said offensive coordinator Ron Turner.
There is no doubt that Orton will be looking over his shoulder, considering the promotion of Rex Grossman to No. 2 on the depth chart, and the rookie needs to perform at a higher level or he will be replaced.
Defensively, the Bears haven't had to blitz much to get a good pass rush because of the pressure applied by the linemen, and they have a seemingly huge advantage in that area this week, especially on the outside. Last week they did use some corner and safety blitzes with obvious success, but that may not be necessary this week.
The Steelers have been their own worst enemy during a three-game losing streak. They have a minus-five turnover takeaway ratio and averaged 10 penalties per contest.
"You still want players to be aggressive. You still want them to be decisive but they've just go to make sure we make better decisions," said Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. "We're facing a big challenge because this is a good football team playing with a lot of confidence."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
"Any time you're missing offensive linemen, especially starters, it's tough. And when you don't have your starting left tackle, he's your blind side protector. We'll be thankful to get him back," Ben Roethlisberger said. "But I'll tell you what, Trai Essex has done a great job of filling in and stepping up. He's gone against some great defensive ends in the games he's been in, so I have to give him a lot of credit."
"Working out in space with Ogunleye gives him that inside-outside option to create a lot of pressure," Starks said. "He usually forces the quarterback to roll out to the opposite side where the other defensive end is sitting upfield."
STEELERS GAME PLAN
Pick your poison on offense: Run against the NFL's seventh-ranked run defense or try to throw on a defense ranked No. 2 in passing yards and fourth in sacks per pass? The Steelers want to mix it up but believe they must have the threat of a run in order for their play-action to work.
"If their wide receivers get involved in the game early, the tight end gets the ball early, it most certainly could be troublesome in terms of what we want to do defensively," said defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
Defensively, they will try to swarm Kyle Orton and force him into turnovers, which they believe are their ticket to a victory.
"They have 4 very good linebackers. Got 3 guys up front that can stop the run and do a great job. They have a couple really difference makers in their secondary that can make big plays and are all over the field," Orton said. "So we're going to have to go out and play well."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
"It looks like they struggle with quickness especially up front so we'll just try to tee off on that," Vasher said of the Pittsburgh offense. "You would think (Roethlisberger) would be (less effective against a good pass rush) so we stack the front. As a coach you would want to go over the top and test your wide receivers against the Bears corners."