By Jeff Joniak
(CBS) The Bears (0-2) host the Steelers (2-0) on Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are my keys to the game.
— I know it’s a broken record, but the Bears defense is facing an offense loaded with weapons for the third consecutive week. The plan must include taking away a possession or two, shortening the game with a productive rushing attack and making good on all red-zone trips.
— Running on the Steelers isn’t easy. They permit 74.0 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry. Last season, they gave up an even 100.0 yards per game and were 1-3 in the games they allowed a back to rush for 100 yards or more. With the Bears offensive line welcoming back Kyle Long but possibly losing Josh Sitton (ribs), the challenge remains to get the continuity and orchestration headed in the right direction.
— The Bears must focus on blocking defensive end Cameron Hayward, who had three hits, one hurry and five tackles on runs against the Vikings last week. Bud Dupree is recovering from a shoulder injury, but he’s a screamer off the edge. Linebacker Ryan Shazier is as fast as anyone at his position. These are really good players.
— After losing on first down in Tampa, the Bears need success running the ball on early downs to help quarterback Mike Glennon get to his play-action and downfield passing game. Until that happens, the Steelers will load the box, challening Glennon to beat them with his arm and the receivers to beat the coverage with their route running.
— Last season, the Bears rushed for nearly 5.3 yards per carry on first down. Right now, they’re 27th in the league in that regard, earning just 2.9 yards per carry. It’s a must to boost that number.
— Defensively, the Bears once again have their hands full. Ben Roethlisberger knows his personnel as well as any quarterback in the league. He can threaten every blade of grass with receiver Antonio Brown, receiver Martavis Bryan, running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Jesse James, who’s pushing toward a breakout season. Tackling, mental toughness and forcing turnovers are paramount for the Bears defense.
— One of the storylines in Pittsburgh right now is that the Steelers play down to their competition. Interestingly, it started three years ago when Glennon led Tampa Bay to a 27-24 upset of Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in what was a 2-14 Buccaneers season. Apparently, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin showed his team the film of that loss this week. Glennon hasn’t won a game as a starting quarterback since. If he gets off to a quick start and the Bears start rolling, maybe the Steelers get that “uh oh” feeling again.
— The Bears have to clean up their entire game. From dropped passes to third-down defensive penalties to mental breakdowns in coverage, or decisions to turnovers, the Bears are in clean-up mode. The good news is all of these problems can be repaired.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.