By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers take the field tonight looking to get their season on track after dropping their first two games. They get a bit of a boost tonight with the return of Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller, and new center Fernando Velasco has another week in the offense under his belt. Felix Jones has also been given the start at running back tonight over Isaac Redman, while William Gay starts at cornerback for the injured Cortez Allen.
The Steelers won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, putting the defense on the field first. Jay Culter looked for Brandon Marshall on the first play and found him for a catch and run of nine yards. On second and one, Matt Forte carried for four yards for the first down. The next ball was overthrown. A seven-yard pass set up third and three, which was converted by Alshon Jeffery against Ike Taylor to the 48-yard line.
The Bears continued to drive, converting three more first downs, with four catches by Jeffery. On first down, Troy Polamalu read a quick screen and blew it up four yards behind the line of scrimmage, and Gay held the following play to just five yards to set up third and long. The third down pass sailed out of bounds. The Chicago Bears called a timeout prior to that series, and they seemed to stymie their own momentum. Still, they were able to cap the drive with a field goal to take the early lead.
The Steelers took it to the ground on the first play with fullback Will Johnson leading the way, and Felix Jones was able to run for a first down. Heath Miller caught his first pass of the season on the next play for six yards and took a nice shot. However, on second down, Ben Roethlisberger was stripped of the ball and it trickled backward, recovers by the Bears at the 17.
The Steelers limited the Bears to just one yard on the first two plays after the recovery; however, and on third down in a four-wide look, Forte was able to convert to set up first and goal. Forte carried the ball into the end zone on the next play to take a quick 10-0 lead.
The first play after the score was a pass down the field to Miller, which was overthrown. On third and nine, Roethlisberger went deep again, this time to Emmanuel Sanders, who got behind Charles Tillman. The ball was just out of his reach, however, and the Steelers had to punt.
On the very next play, Forte exploited a huge hole for a 55-yard run, assisted by missed tackles by Ryan Clark and Gay, the latter of whom attempted to strip the ball rather than take down the runner. Once again, the Bears had first and goal. Taylor was flagged for pass interference, which put the ball on the one. Michael Bush narrowly came up shy, and Martellus Bennett could not maintain possession in the back of the end zone. The third down run came up short, according to the officials, but the Bears challenged it. Somewhat to my surprise, the call on the field stood, but the Bears punched it in on fourth down anyway to take the 17-0 lead.
Following the score, the Steelers started having some success with a pair of carries by Jones and a reception by Antonio Brown with some yards after the catch. Will Johnson gained five yards on a reception, but on second down, Roethlisberger was kamikazied by linebacker D.J. Williams for the sack to set up yet another third and long. On third and 14, Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown deep down the field to the 15. Roethlisberger got him open by influencing the safeties.
Felix Jones found nine yards, but the second down screen pass lost a couple yards. It should be noted that Marcus Gilbert was benched in favor of Kelvin Beachum at right tackle. On third down, Roethlisberger and Brown failed to hook up on a tough pass that could have set up first and goal. Still, the Steelers finally got on the board with a field goal.
Curtis Brown made the stop at the 7 on the ensuing kickoff. Once again, Vince Williams was in early in place of Kion Wilson, which did not start on this drive. LaMarr Woodley was coming for Cutler on second down, but he got the ball away for a first down. Brett Keisel notched his first sack of the season on the next play, and just the second for the team on the year. On third down and six, a safety blitz forced Cutler to throw the ball away to force a punt.
Kelvin Beachum was moved to left tackle for the next drive with Gilbert returning to right tackle. On the third play of the drive, Roethlisberger was intercepted by Major Wright and returned for a touchdown and a 24-3 lead. It appears Roethlisberger and Jerricho Cotchery may not have been on the same page on the play.
On second and inches, Jonathan Dwyer was blown up in the backfield by an unblocked Lance Briggs for a five-yard loss. David DeCastro, it appears, was supposed to pick him up on a pull. On third down, Roethlisberger eluded pressure, but then could not make the throw to convert a first down, and once again the Steelers called upon Zoltan Mesko. Mesko was hit pretty good, however, and it was called roughing, which resulted in an automatic first down.
After the pardoned drive, Roethlisberger once again was forced to elude heavy pressure, and he found Sanders down the field for a first down, who then took a big hit. Two plays later, Roethlisberger uncorked one from the 40-yard line to the back of the end zone, finding Antonio Brown, who made the adjustment to secure the ball—and his feet—for the score. The Steelers now trailed 24-10.
Vince Williams continued to play on defense, but he exited after the first play for the dime defense once again. William Gay forced a fumble on Alshon Jeffery on second down, but recovered the ball himself. On third and five, Jarvis Jones pressured Cutler, but he was able to escape pressure and get a pass away that should have been caught by Brandon Marshall..
Felix Jones carried for nine yards on first down. On second down, DeCastro made a big block to help spring Dwyer for a big down near midfield. He was dropped for a loss on the next play, and gained just about the lost yardage on second down. Roethlisberger was nearly sacked on third down, and Markus Wheaton could not secure the first target of his career, which was slightly behind him. Mesko’s punt was poor, with a Bears bounce that left the ball on the 29.
The Bears simply ran out the clock, and the Steelers called a timeout with nine seconds remaining. They failed to block the ensuing punt, however, which took a perfect bounce to run out the clock and send the game into halftime.