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The Steelers were back on the field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, preparing for Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field.
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Two storied franchises, the Bears and Steelers, first started playing in 1934. Chicago beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, yes, the Pirates, the first six times these franchises met. Then the Pirates became the Steelers, and Pittsburgh proceeded to still lose the next four meetings. That made the Bears 10-0 against Pittsburgh before 1950. Since then, Chicago and the Steelers have only played 17 times, and the Bears have gotten the better of Pittsburgh during that stretch as well. Chicago leads this series 19-7-1 and is currently on a three-game winning streak, with the Bears winning the most recent meeting 23-17 in overtime in 2017.
Game action photos from the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 3 game against the Chicago Bears.
The Season so Far
- The Steelers have now won three games in a row to bring their record to 4-3. Pittsburgh's point differential sits at -10, compared to -72 for the 3-5 Bears. Chicago has lost three in a row. Chicago has scored 12 touchdowns this year and has given up 22.
- Pittsburgh is now -1 in turnover differential. The Bears are -3. Takeaways have been a problem for both teams, as Chicago has eight in eight games, and the Steelers have taken the ball away on just six occasions in their seven 2021 games thus far. Pittsburgh has only turned the ball over seven times, though, compared to 11 for the Bears. Justin Fields has thrown seven interceptions and has fumbled eight times. There isn't a player in this game with multiple interceptions this year.
- The Bears and Steelers are right in the middle of the NFL in terms of time of possession. Chicago holds the ball for 30:11 on average, while the Steelers are now up to 30:16 after possessing the ball for 31:45 in Cleveland last week.
- Pittsburgh's offense produces 5.2 yards per play. That ranks 25th in the NFL. The Bears offense produces 4.4 yards per play which is dead last. The Steelers defense is allowing 5.5 yards per play, which is 16th. Chicago's defense is giving up 5.8 yards per play. That comes in at 24th. The Bears defense allowed San Francisco to average 8.6 yards per play, 11.5 per passing play, and 5.6 yards per rushing attempt last week. However, the Steelers offense is producing just 4.1 yards per play on first down, which is last in the NFL.
- The Steelers are running 63.9 plays per game, which is right in the middle of the league. But Chicago snaps the ball just 59.8 times per game on average. Only Seattle, Houston and Cincinnati are running fewer plays per game than the Bears.
- In terms of points produced per drive, the Steelers offense ranks 25th and Chicago's ranks 30th. Pittsburgh's defense ranks 12th in this metric, while the Bears defense comes in at 20th.
- The Bears average drives begins on the 26.97-yard line. That is the 23rd best starting average field position in the league. Pittsburgh's begins on the 24.74-yard line, which is the second-worst, only ahead of Jacksonville.
- The Bears defense is giving up a full two yards more per passing attempt (8.1) than Chicago's offense (6.1) is producing through the air. Chicago also has just four passing touchdowns in 2021 while allowing 14.
- Diontae Johnson is averaging 2.29 yards per every route he has run this year. Chase Claypool is at 1.94. As for Chicago, Darnell Mooney is at 1.66, and Allen Robinson is all the way down at 1.12 on his 243 routes run this year.
- In terms of passing yards produced per attempt, Justin Fields ranks 32nd out of 33 qualifiers, and Ben Roethlisberger ranks 27th.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
- Ben Roethlisberger is completing just 25.8% of his throws 20 yards downfield or longer.
- Najee Harris is on pace for over 400 touches in his rookie season. He is averaging 107.4 yards from scrimmage per game. That is seventh-best in the NFL amongst all skill position players. Over the past three games, he is averaging 129.7 yards from scrimmage with 25 or more touches in all three. Derrick Henry is the only running back in the league getting a higher percentage of his team's rush share, as Harris has 88% of Pittsburgh's carries. Opposing running backs average 4.9 yards per carry against the Bears, which is 30th in the league.
- Diontae Johnson's target share over the Steelers past two games sits at 34% in Week 6 and 38% last week in Cleveland — massive numbers. Only Tyreek Hill and Cooper Kupp average more targets per game for the season than Johnson's 10.5.
- The Steelers have played two full games without JuJu Smith-Schuster. In these past two games, Chase Claypool has run one-third of his routes from the slot compared to 19% in the first five weeks of the season. In those two games, Claypool has run a route on 85.4%, and 94.6% of the Steelers pass plays but has seen just 17.9% and 14.3% of the team's targets combining for six catches for 62 yards. His usage indicates that a breakout is coming.
- The Bears are allowing 9.8 yards per target to opposing wide receivers, which ranks 30th in the league. They are also surrendering a 7.7% touchdown rate to this position. That ranks 31st.
- Pat Freiermuth played a career-high 78% of the snaps last week and ran a route on 65% of the pass routes, also a career-high. That was the second game in a row that Freiermuth was targeted seven times. Chicago's defense has been stingy against tight ends, allowing just five yards per target to this position. That ranks second-best in the NFL.
- Roquan Smith is the only Bears defender that has yet to leave the field in 2021. Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor have only missed one snap apiece. Eddie Jackson has played 460 of the possible 514 snaps on the Bears defense, but Chicago doesn't have another defensive player this year with more than 339 snaps played. Last week, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Robert Quinn, and Tashaun Gipson all logged over 50 of the possible 56 snaps, along with the three Bears defenders (Smith, Johnson, and Vildor) that basically never leave the field.
- Five of the Bears defensive tackles saw playing time last week against San Francisco. For the season, Bilal Nichols leads this unit with 319 of a possible 514 snaps played. But Chicago has used eight different defensive tackles this year, and five of them have seen the field for 89 snaps or more.
- Roquan Smith has rushed the passer 37 times in 2021. No other Bears second-level player or defensive back has more than 12 snaps rushing the quarterback.
- Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have combined to play 649 snaps this year. But between the two of them, they have just 35 snaps as a coverage player.
When Chicago Has the Ball
- The Bears score a touchdown on 15.8% of their possessions. That is the lowest percentage in the league.
- Justin Fields has yet to throw for 200 yards in an NFL game or post a stat line with multiple passing touchdowns.
- Against the 49ers last week, Darnell Mooney's average depth of target was a whopping nine yards further downfield than Allen Robinson's. With Fields as the quarterback, Mooney has been targeted 42 times compared to 33 for Robinson. Mooney has at least 25% of the team's targets in four of the last five games.
- Last week against San Francisco, the Bears rushed for 176 yards. Chicago's running backs carried the ball 26 times but only produced 73 yards on the ground while Fields did the rest on his ten carries. In his seven other career NFL games, Fields had a combined 130 yards on the ground off 34 attempts. The Bears did possess the football for 37:11 of that game against San Francisco. Fields now has 24 rushing attempts over the past three games.
- 46.4% of the Bears offensive yards this year have come from rushing the football. That is an extremely high percentage in today's NFL. Chicago runs the ball on 50.2% of their plays, which is the second-highest percentage in the league.
- Chicago is allowing 3.8 sacks per game. That is the worst in the league. In fact, the 31st team, Seattle, is only allowing 3.2. In their away games, Chicago's quarterbacks are being sacked 4.5 times per game. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's defense averages 2.7 sacks per game, which is the fourth-best in the NFL. TJ Watt has a sack in six of his last seven games at Heinz Field.
- The Bears offense has run 498 plays this year. Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, and Sam Mustipher haven't missed a play yet. Jason Peters is next on that list with 461 snaps played. Outside of those four offensive linemen, Chicago's snap leaders are wide receivers Darnell Mooney (429) and Allen Robinson (422).
- Chicago's top two wide receivers are clear, but while Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd have yet to miss a game, their snap counts are very similar. Goodwin has played 214 vs. 202 for Byrd. Even this past week, Goodwin barely out-snapped Byrd 30 to 26.
- Chicago's tight end usage is interesting. Cole Kmet has played 419 snaps, while Jimmy Graham and Jessie James have played 109 and 108, respectively. Of those 636 snaps played, these three have combined to pass block just 51 times despite Chicago's pass blocking problems. Kmet is running a route on 73.3% of the Bears passing plays. That is the 10th highest amongst all NFL tight ends.
- The Bears strongest tendency for offensive personnel usage is their 26% utilization of 12 (1 RB/2 TE) Personnel. Only eight offenses use 12 Personnel a higher percentage of the time. They also get into 13 (1 RB/3 TE) 5% of the time, which ties for the seventh highest in the league.
- The Bears top three running backs, David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, and Damien Williams, have combined to play 491 snaps this year. In total, these three have run 226 routes vs. 187 carries. Herbert played 84% of the snaps last week. Williams played 6%. That makes three straight games in which Herbert has played at least 77% of Chicago's offensive snaps. Herbert has received 18 or more carries now in four straight games and has rushed for at least 70 yards in those contests.
- Chicago's offense is converting 34.7% of their third down opportunities. Only six teams are worse. Meanwhile, the Steelers defense held Cleveland last week to just 3 of 12 in their third and fourth down chances. And for the season, Pittsburgh's defense ranks ninth in the league on third downs.
- Between TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Melvin Ingram, they have collectively rushed the passer 481 times as opposed to dropping into coverage on 53 snaps this year.
- On the passing plays in which Joe Schobert has been in the game, he has dropped into coverage 202 times and rushed the quarterback on 26 instances. As for Devin Bush, he has dropped on 152 snaps and blitzed 13 times.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds have played 454 and 444 defensive snaps, respectively. Fitzpatrick and Edmunds have each rushed the passer just three times.
- The Steelers are the only defense in the NFL that has allowed fewer touchdowns (14) than field goals (15).
- The Bears average 6.8 yards more per punt return than they are giving up. They also have bettered their opponents in kick return average by 4.2 yards. Pittsburgh is about even with their kick returns vs. their opponents but are allowing their opponents 2.9 more yards per punt return than the Steelers are producing.
- Presley Harvin has dropped 12 punts inside the 20-yard line. The rookie punter has only one touchback.
- No kicker has missed a field goal or extra points against the Steelers this year, which basically comes down to bad luck for Pittsburgh thus far. The Steelers are the only team in the league that has this distinction. For comparison's sake, New England's opponents have missed seven field goals and two extra points, which of course equates to 23 points left on the field. Chicago's Cairo Santos has missed one extra point but is perfect on field goals in 2021.
- Here are the Steelers snap count leaders on special teams: Ulysees Gilbert, Derek Watt, and Miles Killebrew lead the way with 128. Benny Snell is one behind at 127. Then there is a small drop-off to Marcus Allen at 118 and Robert Spillane at 112. After those top six, James Pierre comes in with 94, Justin Layne with 93 and Arthur Maulet with 85.
The Advanced Scout Podcast
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Matt's Most Memorable Moment: December 11, 2005: Steelers 21, Bears 9
As you can imagine with these franchises, this was a very physical game with the snow falling on a cold day at Heinz Field. Points were difficult to come by early on in a defensive struggle. Jerome Bettis scored a one-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter, and Pittsburgh took that lead into halftime. And it was Bettis that made the play of the day and one that is just unforgettable. Midway through the third quarter, Bettis got a Ben Roethlisberger handoff on the five-yard line. Bettis just ran over Brian Urlacher, a tremendous player and Hall of Fame linebacker in his own right, for a memorable touchdown run that pretty much sealed the win for the home team. The Steelers ran for 190 yards that day, and Bettis went over the 100-yard mark for the 62nd time in his career with two touchdowns on a day when Roethlisberger only had to throw the ball 20 times. The Steelers were 7-5 coming into this game but didn't lose again. Pittsburgh capped off the season with a Super Bowl victory over Seattle.
Facts from NFL Research
- Mike Tomlin is 22-4 vs. rookie starting quarterbacks as Steelers head coach (7-0 in his last five seasons).
- T.J. Watt has 8.5 sacks this season (tied for second-most in the NFL).
- He is the only player this season with 8+ sacks in fewer than eight games played.
- The Steelers have averaged the fourth-most sacks per game (2.7), and the Bears have allowed the most sacks per game (3.8) this season.
- This season, the Steelers have had the most difficult schedule in the NFL (based on opponent record through Week 8) with an opponent win percentage of .611.
- The Bears have had the second-most difficult schedule (.597 opponent win percentage).
- Bears QB Justin Fields vs. Steelers LBs Devin Bush and Joe Schobert- Although he is a tremendous powerful athlete with great speed, Fields hasn't run with the football nearly as much as you would expect in his rookie year. Well, that changed last week and could be a sign of things to come for Fields. He was an excellent passer at all levels at Ohio State, but Fields becomes far more difficult to defend when his legs are a big part of the equation. Still, most of Fields' running plays last week were scrambles on plays that were called pass plays. Might Chicago expand their designed quarterback run package? It is certainly possible. Bush and Schobert will have to be very wary of Fields as a runner, either by design or after the play breaks down. Chicago's rookie quarterback is an enormous untapped talent that could be ready to explode.
- Steelers RB Najee Harris vs. Bears LB Roquan Smith-Much like Bush, Smith was selected in the top 10 of the 2018 draft-one year before Bush. It took a little time, but Smith has broken out in a huge way in his third NFL season. He never leaves the field and defines the modern-day NFL linebacker that excels in all aspects of the position. Smith and Harris should see an awful lot of each other on Monday night, and it will absolutely be a featured matchup. Harris will be running downhill at Smith. Smith will be chasing Harris down on outside runs. And these two are sure to tangle plenty in the passing game, whether it is with Smith as a coverage player against Harris or Pittsburgh's rookie running back picking up Smith in protection. These are two great young players that just continue to get better.