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Bears blitz brings feast and famine

Defensive line still not providing much pass rush for Chicago

Published: Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013 11:59 p.m. CDT
(Don Wright)
Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) can't catch a pass in front of Bears linebacker Lance Briggs (55) during the second quarter Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Bears won 40-23. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

PITTSBURGH – The question seemed simple – if you can’t get to the quarterback, why not blitz more?

“We’ll blitz when we need to, and when we want to,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said on Wednesday. “The blitzes complement the base, and vice versa.”

The Bears needed to put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, and clearly wanted to in Sunday night’s game against the Steelers. Tucker called for several blitzes, whether it meant sending linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams, or bringing a defensive back, like Chris Conte or Isaiah Frey.

Major Wright’s interception return for a touchdown and Williams’ forced fumble both came thanks in part to blitzes.

Williams stood out in the first half in his sixth career game against the Steelers. The veteran had two sacks – the same amount as the entire team in the first two games – including one that forced a turnover.

The strategy was far from 100 percent effective, though. Roethlisberger still made the Bears pay a few times for bringing the house. His big touchdown pass in the first half to Antonio Brown (33 yards) came when the Steelers picked up Conte’s blitz.

Another side to the Bears needing to bring five, six or seven players in the pass rush is that the defensive line still wasn’t able to create pressure on its own, and Roethlisberger seemed to figure things out after halftime.

Calm Cutler: A common conversation topic during the week was a more calm, relaxed Jay Cutler, and he looked it on the Bears’ first drive of the game. In hostile territory on primetime television – something that has often left Cutler and the Bears’ offense flummoxed – the Bears marched down the field, with Cutler completing 8-of-10 passes, four of them to Alshon Jeffery. They had to settle for a field goal, but it set the tone early.

Giving up the big one: The defense continued to allow explosive plays, and on Sunday night those came against one of the league’s worst offenses through 2 weeks. Roethlisberger’s arm strength, combined with the speed of receiver Antonio Brown, burned the Bears’ secondary one too many times, including for a pair of touchdowns. Five different Steelers receivers had a catch go for 20 yards or longer.

Neutralizing Hester: A week after breaking his own record for kickoff return yards in a game, Hester didn’t have an opportunity to directly take over the game – but his presence helped in field position. Zoltan Mesko averaged 29.5 yards on his first two punts of the game. When Hester did have a chance on a short kickoff in the first half, he tried to dance away but was stuffed deep in Bears territory.

Injuries: The Bears suffered a potentially huge loss when Henry Melton was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Even though Nate Collins has played well and Melton has been slow to start the year, he is a Pro Bowler, and the depth behind Collins is paper-thin. Melton will be a free agent after the season. ... Zack Bowman replaced Charles Tillman in the fourth quarter. According to a sideline report, Tillman had a groin issue, keeping him out of the game.

Quick hits: Forte limped off the field with trainers late in the third quarter with what appeared to be a lower right leg injury. He did return on the next series. … The offense didn’t seem to have much trouble operating in the noise of Heinz Field, but according to the radio broadcast, Cutler was having trouble hearing plays in his helmet. ... Michael Bush got only six snaps in Week 2, but short-yardage situations gave him more chances to run, though he couldn’t get much against the Steelers’ front.

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