Behind Enemy Lines: Steelers vs. Bears

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Jim Wexell of SteelCityInsider.com, go Behind Enemy Lines for a breakdown of Sunday's Week 2 matchup between the Steelers and Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago. It's an abbreviated installment, so here are five questions from John to Jim.

John Crist: While I understand the value of running the football, especially when an organization has an identity like the Steelers do, Ben Roethlisberger performs well slinging the ball all over the place out of the shotgun. Why not open up the offense a little more and let Big Ben do what he does best?

Jim Wexell: They threw the ball 43 times in the opener, which was two more than Roethlisberger ever attempted last season. I don't know how much more they can throw. The guy gets hit enough as is, and the best way to lower the heat is to establish a running game. The Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall first a couple of years ago to do just that. His return from injury has turned the heat up on Willie Parker, who has responded by getting in great shape.

That said, the Steelers will likely give Parker another game or so to prove he hasn't lost a step, and Mendenhall perhaps a month to prove he's not a bust. If they can't get anything going, they'll have little alternative than to put their QB in the shotgun on first down.

JC: Many Bears fans were high on Mendenhall in the draft two Aprils ago since he's a product of Niles West High School and the University of Illinois. Luckily for them, Matt Forte turned out to be a stud after passing on Mendenhall. Is he on his was to being the featured back any time soon?


RB Rashard Mendenhall
Getty Images: Gregory Shamus

JW: He looked good last year in the first half of the Ravens game before Ray Lewis busted his scapula. The injury is still in his head, as evidenced by his poor pass blocking, so no one's really sure what to make of him.

His power, speed and hands demand that the coaches give him more time, but right now he's looking like nothing more than a third-down back – if he can improve his pass blocking.

JC: Pittsburgh seems to have a perfect combination of weapons in the passing game: Hines Ward as the possession target, Santonio Holmes as the big-play threat and Heath Miller as the dependable security blanket. Are the roles for these three pass catchers as clearly defined as they appear to be on paper?

JW: Ward got deep a couple of times against the Titans, but for the most part those stereotypes fit.

Mike Wallace has deep speed and the intention is for he and Holmes to open up the middle for Ward and Miller, and the coaches looked good on that count in the opener.

JC: If Jay Cutler and Co. had trouble figuring out Green Bay's version of the 3-4 in Week 1, then they're in big trouble facing the Steelers' wide-open scheme in Week 2. Does this defense have any noticeable tendencies based on down and distance, or is Dick LeBeau completely random when making calls?


Dick LeBeau
Getty Images: Gregory Shamus

JW: Other than being able to run on the Steelers' dime defense, I don't know of any tendencies. People with far greater football minds than mine watch hours of tape trying to answer that question. Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers, by the way, and LeBeau coached three seasons together under Bill Cowher, so the Packers' defense is a good blueprint for the Bears this week.

The problem, as I saw it from my couch, wasn't so much scheme as it was the left tackle, left guard and right tackle. And people think the Steelers have stiffs up front.

JC: Both teams will be missing their most recognizable defender: Brian Urlacher for Chicago, Troy Polamalu for Pittsburgh. While Urlacher's star is beginning to fade, Polamalu is in the prime of his career. It's hard to be impartial here, but which team will miss their superstar the most Sunday?

JW: You should've written off Rex Grossman as quickly as you're writing off Urlacher, who looked great Sunday night. Polamalu also looked dynamic, but, with Lawrence Timmons likely due back, the Steelers will have someone capable of covering Greg Olsen. They can then put anybody man-up on Earl Bennett, a safety over the top on Devin Hester and just beat on that stud you have at running back.

No, I think the bigger loss is Urlacher, since the Bears have so little in their back seven.


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John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Jim Wexell is the publisher of SteelCityInsider.com.


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