2017 South Side Questions: Biggest On-Field Takeaway From Bears Game?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: What is your biggest football-related takeaway from yesterday’s game?

Let’s preface this by emphasizing right off the bat that this is a question about football. Even if you think the pre-game stuff was the biggest factor in the game, it’s not what the question is asking about. So let’s limit the answers to on-field matters.

The Steelers fell yesterday 23-17 during an overtime loss to the Bears, during which the home team scored an opening touchdown of the extra period, preventing the offense from having an opportunity to possess the ball.

A lot of things did not go their way yesterday on the football field, but it would seem that the most glaringly obvious was the run defense, which allowed the Bears to rush for 220 yards, averaging almost six yards per carry.

Prior to the overtime numbers, though, it didn’t look quite as bad. Chicago moved the ball 74 yards on four carries in overtime. Prior to that, they gained 146 yards on 34 carries, averaging about 4.3 yards per carry. Still not good, but also not utterly pathetic.

The offense’s failure to execute during many portions of the game was obviously a concern as well, but most egregious were the two drives that went nowhere in the last five minutes of the game after they were able to bring it to a tie.

Then there was special teams, which after two weeks of positive plays yielded two big negatives with a muffed punt and a blocked field goal that ultimately provided 10 points for the Bears.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • ThatGuy

    Just simply not a good team right now. Constantly fall to bad teams under Tomlin.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Tomlin did not have the team prepared to play a bad opponent.

  • Steelerfan56

    The defense looked confused once the Bears started having success running the ball. Even without having seeing an analysis I would still venture to say that Butler didn’t make the necessary adjustments. Also, Ben looked completely off and the O line played horribly.

  • will

    Chickello was out of position and did not “set the edge” on runs all day long! It was not “workin” for Chick. Yet Coach Butts nor Tomlin would not insert Harrison. (who only played 3 snaps?)

  • Alan Tman

    The offense scored seven points without them being set up by a defensive turnover. If Ben doesn’t figure out why he is playing poorly on the road we just need to run the ball and play defense and field position when we’re on the road.

  • D.j. Hoy

    They’re 2-1.

  • D.j. Hoy

    Vance McDonald hustled his butt off to get down there and knock the ball out of Cooper’s hands.

  • Alan Tman

    The defense played good considering we committed two turnovers. To hold an NFL team to 14 points in 4 Quarters should get the job done. Especially having two turnovers. Let’s talk about a 90 million dollar offense scoring only 7 points without the defense taking the ball away. If we can’t score twenty points on the road it’s going to be a very long season.

  • John Noh

    I can’t wait for Tuitt and Watt to come back, hopefully for the Ratbirds game. That is a lot of defensive talent missing right now. They make the others on that squad better by their presence and play.

  • Douglas Andrews

    My biggest takeaway is it’s time to stop expecting Ben to play better than he’s shown on the road. I’m of the mindset now that in order for us to win on the road we better expect a big game from Bell, AB, or the offensive line heck even the defense. But the bottom line is i’m done thinking Ben will play better on the road period!

  • Chris92021

    Several things:
    1. Our franchise QB played meh against an average at best defense. Again. If every game was played at Heinz Field, Big Ben would be the MVP. This needs to change. I am not expecting Roethlisberger to go out and throw 4 TDs in every road game but I do expect the offense to put up more than 270 yards and 17 points, especially against the Bears defense regardless of venue.

    2. Coaching staff. First, Mike Tomlin. It is great that the team made a decision together but they certainly didn’t look like they were together during the game. One of the comments in a thread yesterday said it best, that about twice a year, a Tomlin team comes out flat and puts up a clunker. I get that some days just aren’t your days but the lack of adjustments goes to the head coach. I am getting tired of defending Tomlin after days like yesterday. I can handle losses but I will never tolerate the dumpster fire like yesterday.

    3. Keith Butler. As the film room post showed, the players did make mistakes but a lot of them were not in position to succeed, that many of them had to be Superman to get from one position to the next to make a play. I get that we have a lot of athletes who whiff on tackles often (Shazier, Dupree, Burns) and we have to live with some of the mistakes they make. However, the absence of James Harrison when Anthony Chickillo was getting abused by tight ends when the Bears by the middle of the 1st quarter realized they could run the ball with a makeshift offensive line and that the Steelers’ defense would only make changes due to injury falls at the feet of Butler. It is surprising to say this since statistically the Steelers are in the top 3 in total defense but Butler needs to be replaced ASAP. I don’t care if it is John Mitchell or even Mike Tomlin that takes over the defensive playcalling. I’ve seen enough miscommunication and frustration from the players on field to come to the conclusion Butler is not very good.

    4. Todd Haley. On paper, the Steelers should have the best offense in the league. A top 10 QB, the best running back in the NFL, the best receiver in the NFL, the best pure deep threat in the NFL, and a top 5 offensive line. Yet this team is middling on offense. Those deep passes that consistently falls short to Bryant are maddening, especially on 3rd downs. Sure, justifications can be made that “oh, well, Bryant was open” but man, those plays are not smart. We should take a page out of the New England playbook and be OK with a 7 yard comeback route every once in a while. Haley is a part of the problem on offense. I thought that this offense would put up 27-30 points a game. Nope. They will never do that consistently as long as Haley is calling the plays.

    The final takeaway is this: the Steelers are a good team. A good team goes 10-6, 11-5, and makes the playoffs. They might even win a playoff game or two. But the Steelers are not an elite team. An elite team gets a 1st round bye and goes to the Super Bowl. The good news is that on paper, we have one of the 5 more talented rosters in the league. Last season when we were 4-5, the coaching staff made the changes needed to consistently win games (putting the offense on Bell’s shoulders and on defense, benching Jarvis Jones and going to a simpler scheme so that Burns and Davis would feel more comfortable). What I am hoping for is the changes start now, not after a 4 game losing skid. Hopefully Tomlin will make the changes needed so this team can get the 1st round bye it desperately needs if they have any aspirations of getting back to the Super Bowl.

  • CP72

    This “elite” offense to me is the surprise disappointment of the season. Top 5 offensive line. Top 10 quarterback. One best deep threats in the league. Arguably the best wide receiver and running back in the league. We have everything, but actual results.

    If this defense holds a team to 17 points through 4 quarters that should be a W. I’m looking for answers and I don’t have any. You look at this roster and have to ask why is this not working?

  • Ichabod

    My biggest take away is that this team will stick to its “plan” no matter what.
    Plan 1…no other running back shall be given a chance to show what they can do (We live or die with Bell)
    Plan 2…no matter how inept our run defense is, we will Not play our best run defending linebacker
    Plan 3…we will wear the Bears down by allowing them to run by, though, around, and over us

  • Douglas Andrews

    That’s just it Alan we have to stop expecting Ben to improve his play on the road. Maybe it’s time for Haley to design a gameplan with Bell as the focal point in the same manner that the Bears did yesterday. Let’s face it the only chance the Bears had was to run to ball and they did successfully. That should be Todd Haley’s takeaway from yesterdays game.

  • Chris92021

    I completely agree. The primary reason why I was so excited about this season was last year, we saw the Steelers overcome Big Ben making a ton of mistakes (see the Buffalo game in the snow when he threw 3 interceptions, including one in the end zone) and playing meh and the offense bogging down in the red zone (see the Chris Boswell 6 field goal game in Cincinnati after being down by double digits). I believe that bad teams can only win one way, which is the opposition has to make a lot of mistakes. Good teams can win in several ways. Elite teams can win in many ways. We have the talent to be an elite team but it has to start with the QB and the head coach. Changes need to be made, even if it is something subtle like eating habits during road games. I hope Big Ben will finally have a good road game against a tough opponent this week because lord knows we need it.

  • JT

    I’d say that the OL is significantly underperforming. We gave them slight passes for facing the tenacious fronts of Cleveland and Minnesota, but we should have been the ones doing the gashing yesterday. And that Artie Burns still has no clue how to support the run.

  • Alan Tman

    This is my only problem with the coaching staff. In games where the temperature is above 80 degrees you must win the time of possession battle, because your defense will wilt in the heat if they are on the field too long. They should have known that from the Miami game last year. But no, we come out throwing the ball all over the lot just like we did last year in Miami. This to me is setting your own team up for failure.

  • Joseph Shaw

    A few:

    1. With the way Chickillo struggled against the run, it made no sense for Harrison–a strong run defender–not to be out there more, considering the Bears’ commitment to running the ball.

    2. We reaped the lack of attention to establishing a solid punt return option. How AB wasn’t put out there after Eli’s muffed punt baffles me.

    3. Ben seems much more prone to tunnel vision. He seems not to be seeing the field effectively–it was always one of his strengths–and is forcing the ball, particularly to AB.

    4. Bell is going down on first contact a lot.

    5. Missed tackles have been an issue, but it’s an epidemic now.

    6. The offensive line appears to be overrated.

    7. There has been improvement in the secondary–except for tacklin

  • JT

    Usually you can pin these easily on Ben, but to me you have to throw in the line and WRs on this one. The line couldn’t pass or run block consistently, and anybody not wearing #84 refused to make plays. How different is this game if Bryant doesn’t let that first pass go through his hands?

  • Douglas Andrews

    You know Chris it might be time to go back to the game plan used for Ben during his earlier years in the league. Remember when the Steelers tried to keep his passing attempts under 30 a game and they ran the football. It was successful but like any franchise QB as Ben got more comfortable they opened up the offense more and hence more passing attempts came with it. Maybe going back to a conservative approach wins the Steelers a few more games on the road.

  • JT

    Trust me, I loathe road Ben. But he didn’t have me screaming at the TV very often yesterday. Usually he makes a throw that just makes your stomach turn. But I didn’t see vintage road Ben yesterday. He played okay. But the problem is, the highly paid offensive line couldn’t open up holes and our highly touted skill players weren’t showing much skill. I’m not terribly worried long term, because we know they will play better. We just have to hope they turn it on soon enough that we have a shot at locking up the division and not a WC spot again.

  • RevDrEBuzz

    Bell being absent from camp caused his game to suffer, he is not the same player he was. They’re almost a quarter of the way through the season and he is not looking good, no burst, running into cul-de-sacs. Perhaps the contract stuff was a smokescreen.

    I am not hopeful the coaches will pull him and give the ball to Conner, the leadership of this team is very stupid.

    Shazier looks incredible, he’s disruptive. He and Hargrave run the D. Hargrave took the C with one arm and walked him back into Mike Glennon’s face. Incredible power.

  • Alan Tman

    You can’t blame a game on one play. With the amount of talent on this offense it should be unstoppable. You have to be multiple. We make ourselves easy to be defended because we’re going to go deep constantly and we go empty set on goal line and short yardage. We should be able to methodically drive the ball down the field ,and help protect our defense, by keeping them off the field sometimes. New England is partly so good because you have to prepare for so many things.

  • Chris92021

    I think it will. Heck, we saw it work last season. I am more interested in seeing the team win games, not guys get their numbers. Plus it will keep the defense off the field, which is always a plus. I saw the Seattle defense, which might be the most talented in the league, get manhandled by the Titans yesterday and all the trick plays that Mularkey used in the second half were set up by the running game. I would like to think we are capable of doing that as well. But yes, like you, I am convinced Big Ben will never be consistently great on the road. Something needs to change.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Agreed and I really felt like the Bears defensive front was one the Steelers would be able to easily run against. What happened to running the football to set up the pass. Seems like the Steelers do it just the opposite. I was amazed at the number of play action passes yesterday because it was obvious that the Steelers weren’t trying to run the football. I wish I had the all 22 because on a few PA passes I don’t think any of the LB’s even flinched because they knew the Steelers weren’t trying to run the football.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I agree he’s played much worse on the road but i’m expecting our Franchise QB to be better. If he’s always going to play just ok on the road then change the game plan. It’s okay to run the football and setup the pass. It might help Ben in the passing game who knows

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I’ve been saying this for a few yrs now we need to be a run first team and just let Ben manage the game like his rookie and 2nd yr in the league

  • JT

    So good that they were 23 seconds away from also losing to a rookie QB at home? I kid, I kid.
    But I disagree. You can absolutely take a game and circle one or two plays that change the flow of the game. Dave and Dave say it every week on the podcast. If you put the Bears out early, they can’t rely on the run and it’s an easy win. That’s what a 30 PPG offense is supposed to do. And while yes, Ben is at the center of that. He wasn’t the only one not making plays to extend drives or score points.

  • Steelerfan56

    Yeah but the O line sucked yesterday too so running the ball wouldn’t have been any better.

  • I don’t think anyone would deny, this team has yet to hit on all cylinders. That being said, they are still 2-1 and looking at a Ravens team is in a very similar situation. May the better team win, hopefully that is us.

  • Douglas Andrews

    The numbers don’t lie we’ve seen it too many times. There’s nothing wrong with making Ben a game manager on the road. You keep the D fresh by winning the TOP and you also rely on someone other than Ben so he doesn’t have to feel like he has to be the hero.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I hear ya but I’d rather rely on the offensive line at this point than to fall trap to Road Ben’s definition of insanity again.

  • ThatGuy

    The constant deep bombs where I feel like at this point are just to try and get a PI call instead of a completion are very very frustrating.

  • ThatGuy

    Yeah, squeaked by the Browns and looked awful against the 0-2 Bears.

  • ThatGuy

    I am also impressed by Shazier and Hargrave. I am mostly impressed by Shazier’s tackling improvements from rookie year to now.

  • Alan Tman

    I’ll go by what Ben said. He lost the game, and he needs to play better. 22 for 39 is unacceptable. The offensive game plan was unacceptable as well. You have to play more conservative when you’re playing in 90 degree heat. Ben is unwilling to do that as well. What’s best for the team should be what everyone wants.


    Mike Glennon will always be the winner when he and Big Ben take the same field…that is my disgusting takeaway from this extremely winnable game.

  • Even the Pats struggle on the road to their divisional foes. They won the game and that is all that matter. I know things look bleak right now, but they will get it together, hopefully. The sky is not falling.

  • RMSteeler

    Couldn’t even win a coin toss.

  • pdupuis

    Run defense was horrendous against a team where the Steelers should have made the QB beat us. Look for a lot of cut back runs until Steelers prove they can stop it.

  • pdupuis

    I know you don’t want to run a huge risk of injury in the pre-season but maybe the O would be better if they played more than a quarter of a quarter (slight exaggeration but not much).

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Our defense will never get a stop in OT

  • The Sun is Pro-Black


    He aint got no alibi

    He’s sucky

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    If Ben makes the simple throws this team will win 90% of the time. He’s too enamored with the big plays and AB. Makes no sense for a qb of his caliber to consistently overlook ope recievers.

  • nutty32

    The impression I’m getting after this 3rd game is that the entire team is not playing hungry or desperate. They seem soft & privileged. Like they’re starting to read and believe how stacked they are & all they need to do is show up. Vet team so maybe they’re saving it for the end, but so far we have a bunch of highly paid, praised players playing soft on both sides of the ball. VW needs to come out and get crazy with some hits to get things rocking or take a seat on the bench. Maybe give one-cut Watson some run to get the OLine cranked. Just something to flip the script.

  • nutty32

    He’s certainly statuesque.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    thats what everone says is the winning formula anyway for any team when at home passing game on the road running game

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    my biggest take away from this game is simple the more things change the more they stay the same

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    with all the weapons on offense we should not only be winning we should be blowing teams out but but Ben keeps going long instead of getting a fresh set of downs and the Haley is clueless when it comes to playcalling

  • Hagen Rinde

    Bell seems slow to me too. I think he already peaked. When I see these other backs… man. But we will see no Conner this year unfortunately.

  • Hagen Rinde

    Best receicer and that’s it. Surely not the best back right now. No top five O line right now and QB barely top ten.

  • GravityWon

    Steelers need to replace both Butler & Haley. Tomlin always preaches that players need to have a sense of urgency. How about having the same urgency from coordinators. I just don’t see much passion, creativity or strategic scheming coming from these guys.

    Have you EVER been impressed by the game calling or player preparation of either of these guys?

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Larger issues seem pretty clear after that game, although the Bears offense did not likely find all of the defensive weaknesses with a predominantly running attack.

    The Bears don’t have much of a passing game and didn’t pretend to. Yet, they routinely ran for chunks of yards against the Steelers, who would not adjust by including the best run defender on the team (92) and just took it until they broke and lost in the end. A display that showed the rest of the league a basic lesson on how to beat the Steelers without the need for a Patriot-like arsenal.

    But the bigger problem, and yes I think we can use that word now, is that the Steelers offense looks like a team that has not played together before. The line has looked poor in various areas since the first game – now with injuries that is just getting worse. And literally no area seems in sync – after 3 games!

    Like a boxer who can’t put combinations together and so relies on getting a few good punches in, hoping that’ll be enough – that’s what the mindset feels like when watching this team.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Spot on