Bears Game Day

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Bears vs Steelers Game Day Preview

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Mike Burzawa

Die hard Bears fan and lead blogger at Bear Goggles On

It's Game Day!    I'm not going to let a rough start in Week 1 and a couple of injuries rain on my Chicago Bears parade.  

Each week, we'll be kicking off the action at Bears Game Day about an hour before the Bears get going.  If you have some great tailgating twitpics or tweets, be sure to tag them #bearsgameday so we can find them and add them to the pregame post.

I had the opportunity for a little Q&A with the Steelers blogger from Nice Pick Cowher in my Bear Goggles On blog.  Check out what Steeler fans are thinking by clicking here.  

Speaking of Steeler fans, we'll have a rabid Steelers fan of our own offering his insights to go along with mine as the action unfolds throughout the game. 

If you can't be at Soldier Field for the home opener, there is no other place to be than Bears Game Day.  On with the preview... 

Who I'll be watching on Sunday:

Jay Cutler
To say that Jay had a bad day last Sunday would be an insult to bad days.  It seems like every move he makes, including his demeanor in post-game press conferences, will be dissected all season long.  For me, the only thing that matters is what he does between the white lines on Sundays. 

Note to Jay - our team is wearing the blue shirts.  Only throw to them please.

Hunter Hillenmeyer
The best thing that Hillenmeyer can do is be himself.  He's not going to be Brian Urlacher.  Play smart, be in the right place and make the plays you're supposed to make.  The rest will take care of itself.  Any chance he could pay a visit to Don Beebe's Speed Camp before kickoff?

Lovie Smith
Lovie took on the added responsibility of game day defensive coordinator.  It's up to him to call defenses that make up for the loss of #54.  He needs to make the defense fit the players he has because he doesn't have the luxury of plugging in a player with Urlacher's unique physical skills to cover the ground that the injured middle linebacker can cover.

Greg Olsen

The player tabbed to be break-out player of the year got off to a putrid start last week, with only 1 catch for a lousy 8 yards.  With Desmond Clark banged up with a rib injury, it's up to Olsen to step up his game.

Danieal Manning

Manning moves into the starting Free Safety role.  He's got to figure out that he's the last line of defense better than he did on this Andre Johnson TD pass from Week 17 last season.  Here's another guy who needs to up his game.  Watch out for those Ben Roelisberger pump fakes.  Don't bite up. 

Adewale Ogunleye
Wale started his Contract Drive 2009 with a 2-sack performance against the Packers last week.  The key for the Bears' defense is to get pressure on Big Ben only with the Front Four, and that starts with Ogunleye.  Was his stellar Week 1 performance a sign of things to come a flash in the pan against a week ass Packers tackle?

Extra Point: The Soldier Field turf
Not as much a who as a what, but the re-sodding of Soldier Field after the U2 concerts last weekend has been well documented this week.  I don't know about you, but I don't think there's any way that sod takes only 5 days after being put down.  Watch out for some big divots and some potentially sloppy play, especially if the forecast for Sunday afternoon rain hold true.    

Key Matchups:
Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes vs Bears secondary
The Steelers have moved from a smashmouth running team to a pass-happy squad.  Roethlisberger and Holmes have hooked up for 18 catches in their last two games, including their Super Bowl XLIII win over the Cardinals last February.  Stop their running game with the front 7 and let the revamped secondary stay back to slow down the Steelers aerial assault.

James Harrison & Lamarr Woodley vs Orlando Pace & Chris Williams
If Cutler and the Bears offense even stand a chance, the Bears OT's must get the job done.  Pace looked every bit of the aging 13 year veteran, especially against undersized speed rushers.  The Steelers outside linebackers could make it a long day for the Bears if our tackles don't slow them down.

Jay Cutler vs his Wide Receivers
Cutler and his wide receivers need to get on the same page.  Period.  The receivers can't zig when Jay expects them to zag.  The subtle in-game pre-snap reads that Cutler and his receivers need to both see will be critical.

Extra Point: Don't give up

Wide receivers can't cut their routes short or give up on plays.  Jay will extend them with his pocket presence so the receivers need to get to their spots and be prepared to catch the ball.   

Prediction
I don't think it's possible for Jay Cutler to have a worse day than he did last week.  Despite the tough Steelers D, I'm counting on a better balance between the pass and run calls from Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner to find a way to score. 

The Titans were able to run for 85 yards against the Steelers in Week 1, which is pretty decent against a stingy Steelers rush defense.  Look for a few opportunities for Matt Forte in the running game and even more in the short passing game.  Forte, who was the Bears' leading receivers in 2008 had zero catches on Week 1.  

On defense, the Bears will have a big void to fill with Brian Urlacher out for the season.  The next game the Bears win without #54 will be their first, going 0-7 without him the last time he missed time back in 2004.  The Bears must follow their usual "bend don't break" philosophy on Sunday.  If they can force the Steelers to kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns, the Bears will be in it late.

When you consider the Bears played the second half of last week's game without Urlacher and only gave up 11 points to the highly touted Green Bay Packers offense, I think they will be better than we expect despite the loss of Urlacher.  A couple of turnovers will go a long way to making up for those injured players.

As far as intangibles go, the Bears will have a pumped up home crowd and a Special Teams unit that looks primed to bring one back.  Don't look for costly mistakes like the fake punt audible called by Patrick Mannelly.  Long snappers are like children - they should be seen and not heard.  Sloppy conditions favor the Bears in this one, so do a little rain dance.  

Final Score: Bears 23, Steelers 19

Don't forget to check back for our live Game Day Blog to follow along with the game and get instant reaction as the action unfolds.  Join the discussion in our Comments section and...

BEAR DOWN!!! 

 


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