Key Match-ups: Steelers-Bears

Neal Coolong examines the key match-ups in today's game between the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears.

Steelers D vs. Devin Hester

It's not common that one player commands this much attention, but Hester is the x-factor in this game. Offensively, the Bears will attack with Hester all over the field on slip screens, short passes to the flats and deep down the seam. The Steelers will employ multiple defenders to cover him in their zone scheme, but look for QB Jay Cutler to check down to any play where Hester may be matched in the open field with a linebacker.

In order to handle Hester's athleticism and help bolster a Polamalu-less secondary, the Steelers could implement more Cover 2 than they normally would. With veteran Tyrone Carter replacing Polamalu (who was on his way to one of the finest games he's ever played before injuring his knee in Week 1), the Steelers lose a healthy chunk of their team speed, and the Bears will attack that early and often.

RB Mewelde Moore vs. LB Hunter Hillenmeyer

For the size of Willie Parker's contract and draft position of Rashard Mendenhall, it's interesting how much production the Steelers get from Moore. He's been the key factor in a multitude of fourth quarter and OT wins the Steeler have had in the 19 games Moore's been on the team. He blocks well and slips outside the contain of the linebacker well enough to make sure Ben Roethlisberger will get a completion.

Hillenmeyer replaces injured LB Brian Urlacher, and will be counted on in situations to contain Moore. This creates a mismatch in space that favors the Steelers, but perhaps more importantly, it will force Hillenmeyer closer to the line to try to cut off the passing lane. That will leave the middle of the field open.

OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley vs. RT Chris Williams

Harrison and Woodley weren't factors early in Week 1, but they wore down the powerful Titans offensive line as the game went on. Judging by Williams performance early in Week 1, the Steelers stud linebackers should be attacking early and often.

Williams was beat badly multiple times by one of the best pass rushers in the game, Aaron Kampman, and that caved in much of Chicago's offensive line. Harrison and Woodley will likely both have cracks at Williams, depending on the defensive call, and if Williams isn't better prepared than he was last week, the Bears offense is going to have a long game.

WR Santonio Holmes vs. CB Zack Bowman

Holmes is coming off back-to-back 9-catch, 131-yard games dating back to Super Bowl XLIII, and will at times be covered by Bowman in his first career start. Holmes and Roethlisberger have developed an outstanding chemistry, and it has led the Steelers to a more pass-first philosophy. With a new starter at right cornerback, and FS Daniel Manning just returning after a hamstring injury, the Steelers will attack the Bears vertically, aiming at Bowman and Manning.

Bowman is replacing former starter Nathan Vasher after Week 1, and should expect to be challenged. Bowman has a size advantage (6-foot-1, 193 lbs) over Holmes, and may be able to press Holmes out of effectiveness. The Bears have a strong pass rush, and anything Bowman can do to throw Holmes off his rhythm will help slow down the Steelers' passing game.

The Coolong Scorecard
Steelers Unit Bears
x Quarterback  
  Running backs x
  Offensive line x
x Wide receivers  
x Tight ends  
even Defensive line even
x Linebackers  
x Defensive backs  
  Special teams x

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