The Chicago Bears (2-0) travel to Heinz Field on Sunday night to battle the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2). The Steelers are looking to avoid their first 0-3 start in 14 years. Only five NFL teams have ever advanced to the postseason after losing three straight games to start the season.
The Bears on the other hand are looking to improve to 3-0 in their first test on the road and on national television on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. History is on Chicago’s side, the last two times they started off 2-0 they advanced to the Super Bowl (2006) and to the NFC Championship (2010).
The Steelers have scored just 17 points on offense through two games, but they have already played on national television. That could help them start fast in this interleague matchup.
The Bears need to do what they do best. Create turnovers on defense, get impact plays from Devin Hester in the return game and sustain drives on offense.
The Bears are just 1-5 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, last losing to them in 2005. Jay Cutler has posted a 1-5 record on Sunday Night Football, averaging just 183 passing yards per game.
This game will be a big test for the Bears, who will be trying to fight off a very desperate Pittsburgh bunch.
Here are five under-the-radar players you should pay attention to on Sunday night:
The 31-year old linebacker hasn’t made much of an impact in his first two games as a Bear. He has just six tackles, three of which were assisted. He played on 74 percent of snaps in Week One and just 68 percent of snaps in Week Two. Williams has played the role that Nick Roach had been accustomed to the past couple of seasons for the Bears. James Anderson and Lance Briggs have been in on every snap. Williams needs to make more of an impact. Against a weak Pittsburgh pass offense, he might be able to just that on Sunday night.
After a solid preseason, the 25-year old Virginia got off to a slow start in the regular season. The rotational defensive tackle made just one tackle in Week One, but made a bigger impact last week racking up three tackles. In nine games in 2012, he made 11 tackles, which doesn’t appear as much, but he was active all game long. He hasn’t been as active so far this season. This could be his breakout game considering how weak the three-headed Steelers backfield (Felix Jones, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman) is.
The seven-year veteran made his first appearance of the season at tight end playing on 12 offensive snaps and 15 special team snaps. The Bears acquired him on September 2 from the Cowboys for a conditional seventh-round pick. The 6’3″ target caught three touchdowns in a Week Two win last season with the Chargers. He could get looks next to Martellus Bennett in redzone packages after Steve Maneri struggled to reel in a close score.
The 29-year old has just eight rushes for 15 yards this season. The Bears have to find a way to get Bush more involved as a pass catcher and as a runner out of the backfield. He is a talented player, who can do some damage behind this improved Bears’ offensive line. A week after Matt Forte totaled a career-high 30 plays (20 rushes, 10 catches), Bush will likely be asked upon to give him a breather. The most dangerous teams have two solid runners and the Bears haven’t utilized Bush just yet in their new west coast offense. Look for him to shine when he gets his opportunities on Sunday night.
The 23-year old Nevada product has looked very impressive this season after impressing throughout training camp and the preseason. He has seven tackles (six solo) in the limited time through two weeks. The Bears went to the nickel package 31 percent of the time in both games and Frey made the most of his playing time. With Charles Tillman not 100 percent with a knee injury, Frey will get more chances this week. Tillman will likely play, he has started 50 straight games dating back to 2010, but the Bears will monitor his health which will only benefit Frey.