No Excuse Necessary

PITTSBURGH – Although the Bears' defense didn't blame the field conditions for their worst performance of the year, when it came to injuries sang a different tune.

Playing without starting safeties Mike Brown and Chris Harris seemed to be a theme in Sunday's 21-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"They're missed players," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. "Mike Brown is a leader on our defense. "Chris Harris is a big playmaker. "When you plug guys in, we have guys who are capable."

Todd Johnson and Mike Green replaced Brown (calf strain) and Harris (knee sprain), and each missed tackles at different times in the game. Before the game was over, undrafted free agent rookie Brandon McGowan was on the field at safety and eventually tied Briggs for the team lead in tackles with 11.

The Bears may have missed Brown most on the screen passes Pittsburgh completed at five different times in the game.

"It definitely hurt us," Johnson said about Brown's absence. "He's a leader for us and one of our best players."

As the eyes of the secondary, Brown's communication on screen passes and draw plays or reverses is invaluable.

Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera wasn't sure if it was Brown's absence, but did note the team was especially inept stopping screens.

"If anything that was real off, it was we played the screen terrible," he said. "And we had a chance to stop it. It was one of those things you work on. Apparently we just didn't do it right today."

The Bears' defense struggled making tackles, and the bottom line to coach Lovie Smith was that Brown wasn't taking the rap.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," Smith said. "Of course, Mike is tough and it's rough when you lose a player like Mike.

"Again, Mike didn't miss any tackles today."

The Steelers -- and not the Bears -- were offering up the field conditions as a reason why the Bears' defensive line struggled against the run and rushing the passer.

"Please don't put it on the field," Bears defensive end Alex Brown said. "The field was terrible for us just like it was for them. So we played on the same field.

"They didn't play on a fast track and we played on a terrible field. Everybody played on the same field. We just didn't get it done."

Steelers coach Bill Cowher wasn't so sure, especially after seeing how much speed means to the Bears' defense when he watched film this past week.

"The good Lord helped us today with their pass rush," Cowher said "Let's face it, it wasn't the best field conditions. When the snow came, it negated some (of their) speed. But that's a good (Bears) defense."

Steelers rookie tackle Trai Essex held Alex Brown without a sack and thought the snow helped him.

"The snow does help the offense," he said. "It would be stupid to say it doesn't because it does slow you down and doesn't let (defenders) come off the ball as fast."

Homecoming Left to be Desired
Kicker Robbie Gould played before a group of family and friends because he grew up 2 1/2 hours from Pittsburgh, but he suffered the first missed extra-point kick by a Bear since Chris Boniol on Dec. 26, 1999. The kick went wide left, but he didn't want to blame the field conditions.

"I just missed it," he said. "That's all there was to it. Everybody else did their job. I didn't do mine."

Playing it Safe
Even with the Bears trailing 21-3 in the third quarter, Smith refused to gamble. On fourth down following a third-and-seven incompletion, he decided against going for the first down at Pittsburgh's 33-yard line. Instead, Gould took a direct snap out of field goal formation and pooch-punted.

"If we would have picked up something on third down, I think we would have went for it," Orton said. "With that play call on third down, I was thinking it was going to be four-down territory. So I think if we would have picked up 3, 4 or 5 yards on third down, we would have went for it."

Health Beat
The Steelers have the Steel Curtain, but the Bears apparently have the Steel quarterback.

The Steelers' Deshea Townsend suffered a concussion when he blitzed Orton and blindsided him in the first half. He left the game and had to go to the hospital for a CAT scan.

Bears fullback Bryan Johnson left the game with a lower back injury.


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