Safety Valve

Although the Steelers would like to get their ground game going, putting the ball in the air could prove to be a determining factor with both starting safeties out for the Bears.

Pittsburgh has failed to rush for 100 yards in the last three games, all losses. The Steelers are 0-5 this season when they do not run for 100 yards. They are 22-0 the past two seasons when they run for 100 yards.

It appeared the Steelers would try to pound the ball against the Chicago defense, but injuries to Mike Brown and Chris Harris could alter their game plan.

The Bears have the luxury of replacing the Brown and Harris with players that have 53 games of starting experience between them.

Even though Mike Green is a six-year veteran, his confidence has to be low as he was demoted in favor of a rookie earlier in the year and then passed over for a chance to start when the team had just one injury at the position.

Like Green, Johnson had to watch a rookie start ahead of him for the last 11 games. But now he has an opportunity to show the coaching staff he deserves consideration for a more prominent role.

"That's definitely my goal, make a run improve some things and try to get out there and be the starter," Johnson said.

There's little doubt that Johnson can put a hit on the opponent. In the win against the Bucs, he laid out the Tampa punt returner in what special teams coach Dave Toub classified the best hit of the year.

The question is will Johnson and Green be able to keep Pittsburgh from beating the defense with the deep ball. Green has had a propensity for running into the opposing receiver and being flagged for pass interference. Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El are both quick receivers that will test Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman.

Much like how QB Kyle Orton is asked not to lose the game, Johnson and Green will simply asked not to let a completion go over their head. Keep the action in front of them and the Bears will live with the results.

Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a career performance in many ways. He threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns, but also gave the ball away three times on interceptions. If he's asked to win the game, the Bears could force the second-year signal caller into mistakes. The only two times he's gone over 300 yards passing in his career have resulted in losses.

Meaning if the Steelers fall into the trap of just trying to pick on Green and Johnson, it could work in the Bears favor. Pittsburgh is still a running team by design.

The Steelers rank 10th in the NFL in yards per game but are only 19th in yards per rushing attempt (3.9). The Bears have the 7th ranked rush defense and are tied for 2nd in yards per attempt.

The Bears have proven they're a great defense when healthy. It will be a test of their depth to be as good when they're not at full strength. Remember the 1985 defense everyone is so quick to compare them to won with two projected starters missing the entire year because of contract holdouts.


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