The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football 29-27 on a game-winning field goal from K Chris Boswell with 26 seconds left. Future first ballot Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger finished 21 of 30 for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns and RB Najee Harris finished the game with 22 carries, 62 yards, and a touchdown on the ground. WR Diontae Johnson led the Steelers’ offense in receiving yards once again with 5 receptions for 56 yards, but rookie TE Pat Freiermuth caught Big Ben’s two passing touchdowns in the redzone in addition to a 5-reception game for a total of 43 yards. This wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but it was a gritty one! A win is a win! The Steelers move to 5-3 on the season and are back at home to face the winless Detroit Lions Sunday afternoon for a chance to take over 1st place in the AFC North. Before we go into that matchup, let’s take a deeper look at last week’s win against the Bears.
Last week in review
The 3 things I noted to keep an eye on last week were:
1) Beware of the “trap” game
The Steelers avoided a potential “trap” game loss. They made it interesting and took 7 years off of each of our lives while escaping with a win, but they avoided being upset at home. This game had all the makings of a potential loss to a lesser opponent. The Steelers took a two-touchdown lead and everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong and boom, the Bears were back into the thick of things. The Steelers held a 23-13 lead with about 7 minutes left to go in the 4th quarter. The defense held the Bears to a 3 and out and were ready to get the ball back to take some time off the clock. WR Ray-Ray McCloud fielded the punt and attempted to break a tackle and fumbled the ball that was picked up and returned for a touchdown by Chicago’s DeAndre Houston-Carson. This play brought the game back into the Bears’ grasp. The game eventually came down to a 65-yard prayer field goal by Bears’ K Cairo Santos that fell about 10 yards short. Steelers win!
2) Continue to build on the rushing attack against a weaker Bears’ run defense
It just seemed like the Steelers’ offensive line just couldn’t open up holes for Harris all night. He did spring a 13-yard gain late in the 4th quarter, which was his biggest gain on the night. I expected more out of this running game and offensive line that has been progressing during the current win streak, last week just wasn’t the type of performance fans wanted to see. The pass protection also was subpar on the night allowing the Bears’ defense to get to Big Ben 4 times. This unit has to be better moving forward. Maybe it’s time to give OT Zach Banner a shot this week against the Lions?
3) Don’t let Justin Fields make plays with his legs
A point of emphasis facing the Bears is going to be to put pressure on QB Justin Fields while keeping contain on him as well. The rookie has demonstrated he can make plays with his legs. The Steelers’ defense did allow the quarterback 45 yards on the ground, but never really surrendered a big play on the ground to him.
Let’s take a look at 3 things we should watch for against the Lions
1) Another one: Beware of the “trap” game
This week’s matchup against the Lions is probably a better example of a typical trap game for the Steelers. The Lions are winless at 0-8, but did nearly beat the Baltimore Ravens. Any given Sunday in the NFL, as we learned in last Sunday’s group of games and this past Thursday as the 2-7 Miami Dolphins beat the 6-2 Ravens. By the way, I’d like to thank the Dolphins for putting the Steelers in position to take possession of 1st place in the AFC North! Let’s not get a head of ourselves though, this team cannot look past the Lions. With a huge game coming up next week against the Los Angeles Chargers, this matchup with the Lions reeks of “trap game” odor. The Steelers need to put a complete game together in all three phases this week.
2) Address the running game
Worthy of being addressed again, I expected more out of the Steelers’ offensive line and the running game last week against a Bear’s 27th ranked run defense. The Bears’ rushing attack actually out-rushed the Steelers’ attack 136 yards to 105. Harris ran for an average of 2.8 yards per attempt. If this team is going to have success, it’s going to have to rely heavily on its rushing attack, so that the passing game can open up as a direct result. During this winning streak, the offense had become more balanced dating back to the Week 5 Denver Broncos game. In order for the offense to rely on it, the rushing attack has to produce more to extend drives. To put it simply, the offense is going to have to stay on the field longer, because as good as this defense is, they can become tired and holes start to open up for opposing offenses. Maybe, it’s time to make a change, Banner returned from IR a few weeks ago, but has yet to be active on game day. Is this the week he returns and we see a possible tackle eligible scenario for him? This offensive line needs something to gain a boost to execute better! Look for a possible change to the offensive line or some additional help in the run game in some fashion this week.
3) Who’s Stepping Up?
Yesterday, the news came out that WR Chase Claypool is OUT this week and will be inactive. Who will get the chance to come up and fill in? At the beginning of the year this WR room was one of deepest with the most talent in the entire league. Now, without WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and minus Claypool this week, it has been depleted. Could this be the week that we get to see WR Anthony Miller be called up from the practice squad? He’s definitely a candidate. He was a part of the protected practice squad players this week for what that’s worth. One candidate that I see taking over some of Claypool’s targets this week is WR James Washington. I’ve said this in the past, but I think the majority of us have been waiting on a big game from Washington. I think Sunday provides a big opportunity for Washington to showcase his talents!