**Update** Since recording, T.J. Watt has been ruled out and it’s been reported that Prince Amukamara will play. Coming off injury, I don’t expect Amukamara to cover Antonio Brown right out of the gate.
Entering the third week of the season, the Chicago Bears are still hoping to get that first victory of the year. It won’t be easy as they are hosting a tough Steelers team.
With the Bears struggling on both sides of the ball last week in Tampa Bay, it’s difficult predicting much success against Pittsburgh.
Here’s a look at five matchups that will play a major role on Sunday in Chicago.
1. Danny Trevathan vs Le’Veon Bell
The Steelers do enter the game with the league’s lowest yards per carry rushing average (2.8). However, that doesn’t dispute the fact that Bell is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He has a unique running style, is elusive and difficult to bring down.
It didn’t take long for the Bears to miss Jerrell Freeman. Against Tampa Bay, the Bears gave up 53 more yards on the ground than they did against Atlanta, despite facing lesser-talented backs. Countless times Trevathan was unable to shed a block and make a play near the line of scrimmage.
It’s a tough task for Trevathan to keep Bell in check. He’s going to be asked to call plays in the huddle, a job that was Freeman’s and then handed to Nick Kwiatkowski (before he was injured). So there will be a lot on his mind.
Edge: Le’Veon Bell
2. Marcus Cooper vs Antonio Brown
Surprise, surprise. Cooper going up against the opposing team’s dominant wideout is becoming a staple in every week’s five matchups. For the season, Cooper has had mixed-bag results. He did a decent job at limiting Julio Jones in Week 1 but struggled last week against Mike Evans.
What will we see this week as Cooper goes up against Brown who leads the league in not only receptions but in first downs as well?
Brown is one of the most productive receivers in the league. He’s racked up over 1,000 yards receiving every season since 2013. He’s on a whopping 1,952-yard pace for 2017. Needless to say, Cooper’s task to slow down Brown might just be impossible.
Edge: Antonio Brown
3.Eddie Goldman vs Maurkice Pouncey
Here’s one of those battles down in the trenches you should keep an eye on from the first to final whistle. Yes, handling the nose will be a task that’s divvied up between Pouncey and the Steelers’ guards, however, and if the Steelers want to improve their run game (only averaging 2.8 yards per carry) they will want to control Goldman in the heart of the Bears’ defense.
Conversely, it’ll be up to Goldman to ensure that’s not the case. He cannot allow himself to be controlled just by the center. Goldman must come off the snap fast, and get good push on each and every snap. Doing so would force the Steelers to double Goldman, which in turn, would free up extra defenders to make a play on the ball.
Edge: Eddie Goldman
4. Charles Leno Jr vs Anthony Chickillo
All Bears Fans know that if the Bears have any hope of coming away with the win, Chicago must keep its pocket as clean as possible for Mike Glennon. But yes, even doing so doesn’t exactly mean that success is guaranteed.
Since Watt is unable to play, you’ll see Chickillo in this game. Just like Watt, Chickillio has two sacks to his name this season. So, no matter who Leno Jr is tasked with, he’ll have his hands full. Luckily for Chicago, Leno Jr has not given up a sack this season.
Edge: Charles Leno Jr
5. Jordan Howard vs Ryan Shazier
Looks like we’ll start and end with a running back versus linebacker matchup this week. Shazier is a solid linebacker for the Steelers who already has 15 combined tackles, which leads the team. He’s been playing fast, aggressive, and downhill.
Chicago really struggled to move the ball on the ground last week and Howard is only averaging 2.7 yards per rush so far this season. The sophomore back is also dealing with a shoulder injury.
Even though it’ll be on this Bears’ offensive line to get to the second-level and block Shazier, it’s also on Howard to make sure that if Shazier has a free shot at him, that makes him miss, eludes that tackle, and gains extra yards.
Even if Howard is able to do that a few times, and bust out some bigger gains, that should be enough to make an impact.
Edge: Jordan Howard