What We Learned: Steelers vs. Bears

Had the Chicago Bears opened up the 2009 season 0-2, things could have spiraled out of control rather quickly. However, coming back to defeat the Super Bowl champ Steelers was a big step, steadying the ship before Week 3. So what did we learn at Soldier Field? Start with these five observations ...

1. Cutler is capable of dialing down his gunslinger tendencies
When Jay Cutler threw four interceptions in the season opener in Green Bay and did it by forcing the football into coverage, many Bears fans were wondering if their new signal caller was nothing more than a taller version of Rex Grossman. But there he was in Week 2, dinking and dunking the ball all over the place because that's what the Steelers were giving him, and looking terrific in a 27-of-38 performance – not to mention the fact that his receivers dropped at least four passes. While Cutler only averaged 6.2 yards per attempt, he still took a few shots downfield but only when the odds were in his favor, like when he found Greg Olsen wide open in the seam for a 29-yard gain.

Cutler averages 7.4 yards per attempt for his career and is always going to be on the prowl for big plays, although Sunday's 6.2-yard average was acceptable since he completed 71 percent of his throws and was so efficient along the way.


DT Tommie Harris
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

2. Learn to live with unimpressive stat lines from Harris
It's hard to get excited about the play of Tommie Harris since he has only been credited with two tackles so far in two games, plus he is yet to record a sack. However, numbers rarely tell the whole story for a defensive tackle, especially one with the kind of resume Harris brings to the table. If you take a closer look at the game tape, you'll see the three-time Pro Bowler taking on multiple blocks on several occasions because the enemy offensive line is keying on him, which helped Adewale Ogunleye have a big day against the Packers and Alex Brown appear to be unstoppable versus the Steelers.

It's difficult to get noticed by Pro Bowl voters when you are only getting one tackle per contest and not making the highlight reel, but while Harris may not be the dynamic force he was a few years ago, he's still a difference maker up front.

3. Aromashodu pulled his quadriceps at the wrong time
Back in training camp and the preseason, it was Devin Aromashodu coming out of nowhere to make a name for himself at the wide receiver position and unexpectedly earning a spot on the 53-man roster. But just before Week 1, Aromashodu injured his quadriceps in practice preparing for the Packers and watched innocently from the sideline on the inactive list. Rookie Johnny Knox got the call, and all the fifth-round draft pick has done in two games is catch eight passes for a team-leading 152 yards and a touchdown – Aromashodu may never see the field as a result.

Even though Aromashodu was a great story and earned a lot of praise from Cutler for his ability to make plays, Knox has proven he belongs, brings an element of speed this offense needs desperately and seems to be a natural as the No. 3 receiver.


LB Lance Briggs
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

4. Lovie is still selling out to stop the run too often
After slipping all the way to 24th in the NFL defending the run in 2007 at 122.9 yards per game allowed, the Monsters of the Midway made some changes to get back to fifth in '08 at 93.5 yards per game allowed. Some of those changes were somewhat dramatic schematically, including a none-too-popular approach of having the linebackers mug-up the line of scrimmage in an effort to confuse the opponent's blocking assignments, which exposed the DBs and dropped the Bears to 30th in the league stopping the pass at 241.2 yards per game allowed. While Chicago isn't doing the mug-up thing as much thus far in 2009, a fourth linebacker is being added to the mix when the offense goes heavy with extra tight ends.

De facto defensive coordinator Lovie Smith believes in old-school football – running the ball on offense and stopping the run on defense – but is stretching his secondary thin in the process and asking for trouble through the air.

5. Peterson is a better secondary ball carrier than Wolfe
Bears fans are wondering what the deal is with Matt Forte through two games, as the 1,238-yard rusher from his rookie season only has 84 yards on 38 attempts (2.2 yards per carry) so far in Year 2. But there was the veteran Adrian Peterson, gaining 16 yards on three carries, catching two passes for another 11 yards and relegating supposed second stringer Garrett Wolfe to special-teams duty against the Steelers. Much was made in the offseason about Kevin Jones being healthy again and a necessary component of the offense to ensure Forte's health for the long haul, but with Jones lost for the year on injured reserve, Peterson has once again found his way onto the field and given top effort when asked to contribute.

While Wolfe deserves a lot of credit for turning himself into a force on the coverage units, he's never going to be Chicago's version of Darren Sproles and perhaps should have been behind Peterson on the depth chart all along.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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