Friday, September 20, 2013

Steelers Need To Be Prepared In All Phases To Beat Bears

"If you're failing to prepare, you're preparing to fail."

The Chicago Bears come into Pittsburgh Sunday night to face a Steelers team that has yet to win a game. The Steelers offense has been anemic the first two weeks and the defense, while solid, hasn't been the top three unit Steelers fans are used to seeing. As well, special teams will be sorely tested.

After facing Chris Johnson and a Titans team that ran the ball 42 times and a Bengals team that ran it 34 times for a combined 239 yards, that defense is going to be tested yet again by a Bears team led by Matt Forte who averaged 4.4 yards per carry last week against the Minnesota Vikings.

They must be prepared for more of the same until they prove they can stop it.

"He is an experienced, talented back and he can do everything. He can block, he can run, he can catch passes...", defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said in Coordinator's Corner on Thursday. "He's one of those backs you have to stop. He's really an excellent player, maybe an underrated player."

Forte's 138 rushing yards in two games are just part of the deal the Steelers will get Sunday night. As LeBeau alluded to, Forte has also caught 14 passes so far this season. 

Forte makes quarterback Jay Cutler that much better, also. Because when Forte is collecting yards it keeps defenders off of Cutler and he then can be more effective. When he is, his favorite target is 6'4" 230-pound wide receiver Brandon Marshall who already has 15 catches for 217 yards and a 14.5 yards per catch average.

Cutler is a tough quarterback who does have his Big Ben-lite moments. The difference being that if you hit Cutler enough, he will start to force throws and make mistakes.

The secondary must also be prepared to contain Marshall, an assignment that will fall mainly on the shoulders of Ike Taylor. Marshall simply can’t be allowed to make multiple catches down field. The last time Marshall faced Taylor, he was held to five catches for 57 yards when the Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins 23-22. The Bears' playmaker remembers and he is preparing for the rematch.

"He's one of the best in the business," Marshall said. "It seems like he's getting better as he ages. I remember a few years ago playing against him in Miami. I disrespected him a little bit. I didn't do my film study and I got out there and he did some things that really put me in a tough spot. So I've been...watching a lot of film because I have a lot of respect for this guy and no longer will I overlook him." -

But, just containing players when they're on offense isn't enough. As LeBeau said, "we definitely have to get the ball turned over for our guys." -

While turnovers on defense are important, preventing them on offense is paramount. Like If It Ain't Steel has said many times as well as in our last article, execution is of primary concern. Preparation is important there too.

"Football is pretty simple...", offensive coordinator Todd Haley said, "protect the football and don't turn it over."

But, it has been anything but "simple." The 88 yards that Forte ran for last week was more than the Steelers have run for as a team this season. They have also turned the ball over too often, including in drive-killing situations that essentially took points off of the board.

It's a trend that has quarterback Ben Roethlisberger frustrated.

"Very frustrating," Roethlisberger said. "We've got a long way to go. We're going to...let this sink in for a day or two, then get ready for Chicago."

Get ready is right. With the offensive line and turnover problems the team has been having, facing a defense with that front four and that is known for turning the ball over is daunting to say the least. A defense led by Charles "Peanut" Tillman.

At this point, Tillman is questionable and a game-time decision. If he is available to the Bears, here's what he brings to the table: for his career, Tillman owns most of the Bears' defensive back records; he is the career leader in defensive touchdowns (9), pass deflections (126) and forced fumbles (37), third in interceptions (33) and fourth in tackles. He has averaged 3.3 interceptions a year, 3.7 forced fumbles a year (including 10 in 2012), 12.6 pass deflections a season and 70.4 tackles a year.

Yet, the x-factor in all of this may be return man Devin Hester who compiled 249 return yards, including an 80 yarder, against the Vikings. Hester needs no fact, just watch (I recommend sitting down first):

Failing to prepare for him is most certainly preparing to fail.

As we said in our last article which covered the seven keys needed for a win and for a turnaround for the season, unleashing Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown in a quick-strike no-huddle offense and the return of Heath Miller will go a long way towards a win. -

Bottom line: stop Forte, hit Cutler (a lot), contain Marshall, force turnovers, prevent offensive turnovers, contain Hester (not that anyone ever has) and just execute.

Sounds "simple," doesn't it? If they prepare accordingly, it could be.


TIDBITS: Steelers practice/injury report: CB Cortez Allen is out; RB Le'Veon Bell is questionable (he won't play). All others, including TE Heath Miller, are probable.