LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Through two weeks of the regular season the Chicago Bears’ offense (No. 14) actually outranks the defense (No. 17), a feat the offense was unable to accomplish during the majority of the Lovie Smith era.
The Bears are still on the plus side of their turnover ratio (+1, good for 11th in the NFL) thanks to the defense, but the unit ranks a pedestrian No. 14 in rushing defense and No. 17 in passing defense, despite the club’s 2-0 record to begin the season.
Sunday night’s game in Pittsburgh could present the Bears with an opportunity to get back on track defensively. The Steelers have averaged a woeful 9.5 points per game -- fewer than all but two teams in the league -- and rank second-to-last in the league in total offense and rushing offense. Pittsburgh is also converting only 28 percent of its third-down chances, primarily because the Steelers found themselves in so many third-and-long situations in losses to Tennessee and Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stated the obvious on Wednesday during a conference call with Chicago media members.
"We need to score more points," Roethlisberger said. "You’ve got to score more points. We do, we need to run the ball more effectively. We need to be better throwing the ball, and like I said, turning the ball over just kills you. That eliminates points."
So does poor pass protection – Pittsburgh has surrendered seven sacks in two weeks.
In fairness to the Steelers, (1) they had a major injury on the offensive line in Week 1 when starting center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a season-ending knee injury, (2) Roethlisberger has never been the quickest quarterback moving around in the pocket and (3) the team has won Super Bowls before with a bad offensive line.
But the Steelers can’t seem to do much of anything on offense, which has led to an inordinate amount of frustration in the Steel City in the infant stages of the 2013 season.
"I think winning pulls a lot of, helps cure a lot of issues," Roethlisberger said. "That’s what we need to try and do is get a win. I’ve never started a season like this since I’ve been in Pittsburgh. It’s a challenge for us, and one we’re not going to back down from.
"We know we have a tough opponent coming in, especially offensively for us. They’re a really good defense. It’s going be … it’s not like it’s getting any easier. So we need to get on our Ps and Qs and focus in."
Given all of the Steelers’ issues on offense, the Bears should be able to jump-start a dormant pass rush Sunday night at Heinz Field. The Bears have managed to record just two sacks and 10 quarterback pressures the last two weeks, a far cry from the eight sacks the defense had after two regular-season games in 2012.
"Pass rush is something we need to improve on," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "We need to finish in our rushes. We were getting closer, but no cigar. This week is about finishing. Four guys [need to be] working together. When we pressure, we have to get there."