By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered their first loss of the season with a 23-17 overtime setback to the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon.
Pittsburgh (2-1) entered its Week 3 contest having yet to trail through the first eight quarters of season. Chicago (1-2) wasted very little time ending that stretch, scoring on its second offensive possession when Jordan Howard plunged three yards for a score with 9:09 left in the first stanza. The Bears led 7-0 after the opening quarter, marking it the first time the Steelers failed to score in the first 15 minutes of action.
Pittsburgh finally got on the board with 5:42 left in the half when Antonio Brown reached pay dirt for the first time this season, scoring on a seven-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger. Chicago answered right back with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that concluded with a two-yard touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to Adam Sheehan.
The Bears had a chance to go up by two touchdowns before intermission following a blocked field goal as Marcus Cooper picked up the free ball and started to race toward the end zone as the clock wound down. But Steelers backup tight end Vance McDonald ran Cooper down from behind and knocked the ball loose at the one-yard line. The ball went out of bounds before the Bears could jump on it as it was hit out of the back of the end zone by Steelers’ punter Jordan Berry. However, Berry was flagged for illegal batting the ball, thus giving Chicago the ball at the one-yard line. Following a false start infraction, the Bears settled for field goal and a 17-7 halftime lead.
Pittsburgh outscored Chicago 10-0 in the second half to set up the overtime period. The Bears won the coin flip in overtime and subsequently went 74-yards on four plays, ending the game on a 19-yard scamper by Howard.
The loss snaps the Steelers’ nine-game regular season winning streak that dates back to Week 11 of the 2016 campaign. Pittsburgh is now 7-19-1 all-time against the Bears, including 1-12-0 in Chicago.
The Steelers’ offense struggled for the third straight week. They managed two offensive touchdowns, marking the third straight game the offense has failed to reach the end zone three times in a contest. Pittsburgh managed just 282 yards of offense against a Chicago defense that was permitting over 340 yards and 22 points a contest.
Roethlisberger suffered through his worst game of the early going, completing 22-of-39 passes for 235 yards and lost a fumble. He was also sacked three times, doubling his season total through the first two weeks to six.
Thank goodness for Antonio Brown. He once again had the best day among any of the Steelers’ offensive players, hauling in 10 passes for 110 yards. Brown has now caught double-digit passes and accumulated over 100 receiving yards twice this season. He has 26 receptions on 36 targets for 354 yards this year—putting him among the league leaders in both statistics.
The game basically came down to the fact that the Steelers could not stop the Bears’ ground attack, allowing 220 yards on 38 attempts. The biggest problem for the Steelers was the big plays they gave up on the ground. Chicago totaled all 74 yards of their yards on their final drive of the game on runs. The Bears got 37 yards from Howard on runs of 18 and 19 yards, respectively. Those two runs followed a 36-yard scamper by rookie Tarik Cohen that essentially put the Bears in scoring position.
The Steelers did hold the Bears to 84 net passing yards, which is impressive, as they registered two sacks—giving them 11 on the season. In addition, backup safety J.J. Wilcox picked off a Mike Glennon pass.
Special Teams: F
After two weeks of getting solid special teams play, the unit really let the team down against the Bears. Besides the blocked kick and subsequent penalty, punt returner Eli Rogers muffed a punt in Steelers’ territory, which was recovered by the Bears at the 29-yard line. Chicago scored its first touchdown of the game following the turnover.
The second quarter blocked field goal attempted ended kicker Chris Boswell’s consecutive field streak at 14 straight, which includes regular and postseason play.
The Steelers were also outgained by the Bears 69-to-39 in total return yards.
The Steelers weren’t ready to play and while a lot of the onus falls on the players, it is the job of the coaching staff to have the players well prepared, which they obviously weren’t. Plus, the Steelers’ defensive game plan was bad. They have also been unable to get the running game going.
On a positive note, Pittsburgh did involve Bell in the passing game more often than the previous two weeks.
The Steelers will now travel to face their fiercest rivals, the Ravens, in Baltimore on Oct. 1 with first place in the AFC North on the line. Baltimore (2-1) was anything but impressive in its 44-7 loss to Jacksonville in London on Sunday.
Pittsburgh snapped a four-game losing streak to Baltimore with a come from behind 31-27 victory on Christmas Day last year.