LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Undefeated and seemingly in sync, with a winless opponent on the horizon, it should be all sunshine and lemonade at Halas Hall this week.
Forget about it.
The Chicago Bears are acting like somebody is planning to steal their lunch money, giving them a sense of paranoia that is playing out in focused practices and cautious optimism as they prepare to face the 0-2 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Call it the Dick LeBeau factor as the Steelers' defensive guru, with his 3-4 alignment, has the Bears acting like they are about to face a dreaded monster this week instead of the wounded animal Pittsburgh really is.
"You always have to be on your toes," tight end Martellus Bennett said. "You never know who's going to come. They have a lot of great players on the defensive side of the ball. They have a lot of guys who can run around and play multiple positions. The linebackers can play defensive end, the defensive ends can play linebacker. We just have to have our ears up and be ready for everything."
Instead of being satisfied with what they have -- a 2-0 record, improved play form the offense, the ability to rally when necessary, etc. -- the Bears are fully aware of their liabilities this week. They have two rookie offensive linemen heading into their first road game, a hostile environment awaiting that will require the use of a silent snap count and an opposing defense that will attack like a swarm of ninjas.
Consider it more a yearning to be prepared rather than insecurity, though. Playing in Pittsburgh, at night and on national television is also helping to dial in the focus.
"Yeah, they bring some exotic looks and we just have to be in sync with our quarterback and figure out who's coming and who's not, just kind of figuring out their stuff and give [Cutler] a few seconds to get that ball off," left tackle Jermon Bushrod said.
Bushrod said he remembers the difficulties that came with his first handful of NFL road games, but believes that right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills will be fine if they stick to their techniques. Making things trickier will be the silent snap count to help overcome the expected crowd noise.
"With the noise, you're trying to get your quarterback to relay the calls to the center, the center trying to relay the calls to me, me to Jordan and so on and so forth," Long said. "There is a lot of communication that goes on pre-snap that you take for granted, especially when you are at home. We have such a smart fan base in Chicago that knows when to shut up and when to make noise. On the road, these fans will be pretty crazy so we're getting in reps in here with sound and everything."
Getting the snap down is only part of the problem. After facing more athletic four-man defensive fronts against the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings, the beefy Pittsburgh line presents a different challenge.
"In the 3-4 you see the different body types from the regular 4-3 base defense," Mills said. "In the 3-4 you will see them thicker. They're quick, but they're not as quick as the 4-3 defensive ends. You will see more thickness and like coach says, more girth on the defensive line."
Mills said he rarely saw a 3-4 defense when playing at Louisiana Tech, but Long had the opportunity to practice across from one every day at Oregon. Regardless, the youngsters have never seen anything like what they will get Sunday from LeBeau's defense.
"It's a different style of defense," Bushrod said. "It's different techniques, especially in the run game. The pass game, it's different, they have different types of rushes, heavy rushes and they all use their hands pretty well. It's going to be a physical game. I'll probably feel pretty (sore) come Monday. It is what it is."
Based on how Bengals rookie tight end Tyler Eifert performed against the Steelers with three catches for 66 yards in Cincinnati's 20-10 victory at Pittsburgh on Monday night, Bennett could be primed for a big day. What he is expecting, though, is a challenge, making him another in a long line of Bears players who are well aware that a wounded animal can also be dangerous.
"It will be a hostile environment," Bennett said. "They have the TerribleTowels. They have Wiz Khalifa singing the 'Black and Yellow' song. It's Sunday Night Football. It will be rocking. I'm excited. The only way to quiet down the fans is to go out there and make the plays. We have to do our job to get them quiet. Pittsburgh is a tough place to play."