Could 4-3 be the cause of confusion?

The Steelers are searching for answers in their run game, but pass protection OK. More notes from The Sports Exchange.

A few Steelers offensive linemen said they were somewhat confused by Tennessee's 4-3 defense last Thursday. Sunday, they go against another tough 4-3 front in Chicago.

What's to make anyone think they can block on the run better than they did in the opener, when they gained just 36 yards on 23 carries?

"It's a factor," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday, acknowledging the 4-3 caused some confusion for his offense. "I'm not going to allow it to be an excuse. We have to execute and play winning football, and we're capable of doing that.

"We understand what we face schematically this week from these guys and how they play, but at the same time understanding and being able to function against it are two different things. We've got to put ourselves in position to execute."

The Steelers offensive line has shown to be much better in pass protection than running. Even though Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times by Tennessee in the opener, the coaching staff generally believes the line did a good job in that game in pass protection. Roethlisberger responded by completing 33 of 43 passes for 363 yards.

"I thought it was solid," Tomlin said of the pass protection. "We got hit a couple times in some blitz-game things and some no-huddle things, but all in all from a matchup standpoint I thought they did a nice job up front."

However, Tomlin believes the Bears might test that part of their game even more on Sunday.

"They will pursue the ball relentlessly. They will rush Ben relentlessly. They'll chase. They'll do the things that you can't coach, the detail things. But in terms of how the game's going to unfold, that'll be determined by those who play."


--QB Ben Roethlisberger got off to a flying start that has rarely been seen from a Pittsburgh quarterback. His 363 yards in the opener were seventh most in team history, his 33 completions tied for third and his 12 consecutive completions during the game rank fourth in history.

--RB Willie Parker will make his second straight start Sunday, but he could be on a short leash. He admittedly did not run well while gaining only 19 yards on 13 carries. "If you want to point fingers at the run game, always start with me, first and foremost. I'm the running back. I have to make things happen back there. There were places to run, I just wasn't hitting the holes."

--TE Heath Miller will become more involved in the short-yardage passing game if that run game continues to be a disappointment. In the opener, Miller caught eight passes, tying his career high, for 64 yards. He could become more of an option on third-and-short than their running backs.

--WR Santonio Holmes may be about to break out in his fourth season. He did not top 100 yards all of last season, right up to the Super Bowl when he had 131 yards on nine receptions. He now has two straight after an identical line of 9-for-131 in the opener.

--WR Mike Wallace, a rookie third-round draft choice, has not secured the No. 3 job from Limas Sweed, but he was used more often in the opener and caught three passes, including a 22-yarder that set up the winning field goal in OT. Sweed caught none but the coaches have decided to use both in that spot, depending on the situation.

--S Ryan Mundy, on the practice squad as a rookie last year, now becomes the top backup at both strong and free safety with the injury to Troy Polamalu. Tyrone Carter moves into Polomalu's spot at strong safety. The Steelers like how Mundy has come along.

--DE Brett Keisel, signed to a contract extension this summer, had four quarterback pressures to lead the Steelers in the opener, and also tied for second on the team with seven tackles.

--NT Casey Hampton looks to be more active at his position. Normally someone who clogs up the front and pushes the pocket, Hampton had five tackles and three quarterback hurries in the opener. For the first time, he played some in their passing defense.

--LB Lawrence Timmons may return to play against Chicago on Sunday, although it could be in passing situations only, on the nickel. Timmons missed the opener with a high ankle sprain but there is optimism he will be ready to go vs. the Bears.

--RB Mewelde Moore is off to a fast start as the third-down back. He caught four passes for 28 yards and picked up blitzes. Moore, in his second season with the Steelers, also could get more time in running situations if Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall do not improve.

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