New-look Cutler will test Steelers defense

PITTSBURGH -- Playing against a quarterback who has taken a beating over the past couple of years -- as well as an offensive line that is starting a pair of rookies on the right side -- would seem like a perfect opportunity for the Steelers to ring up a bunch of sacks Sunday night.

But that may not be the case when the Chicago Bears visit Heinz Field for an 8:30 p.m. ET game.

Jay Cutler has been sacked just one time this season, and the main reason for that is the veteran quarterback is getting the ball out of his hand quicker.

Cutler is throwing the ball an average of 3.4 seconds after the snap, according to ESPN Stats & Information, compared with 4.2 seconds in the Bears’ first two games last season when he was sacked nine times.

As a result of the shorter passing attack that new coach Marc Trestman has emphasized to keep Cutler upright, the latter’s average pass is traveling 7.2 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Cutler’s average pass traveled 10.0 yards in 2012.

“Their ball is going to be out [quickly],” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “But we know that. There’s nothing new about it.”

Indeed, opposing offenses have tried to neutralize the Steelers’ pass rush and LeBeau’s array of blitzes in recent years with a shorter passing attack.

That is why the Steelers don’t base their success on getting to the quarterback based solely on sacks.

Not that averaging a half a sack, as the Steelers have, will suffice, especially since the defense needs to force more turnovers.

How much of a chance the Steelers have to really go after Cutler, though, remains to be seen.

The eighth-year veteran seems to have bought into Trestman’s philosophy, and the Bears could use play-action when they go down the field, especially if they can get running back Matt Forte going early.

“They know we are coming,” LeBeau said. “We are coming. I thought our pressure has been good these first two games. We’ve gotten both quarterbacks hit early, and I think it affected both of their play.

“We broke down on a couple of coverages in Cincinnati. It wasn’t the throws as much as beating ourselves. We can’t allow that to happen.”