Week One of the 2009 National Football League season is officially in the books, and Week Two is already on the horizon. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the season began a few days early with a Thursday night showdown against the Tennessee Titans. The game did, indeed, live up to its expectations. The two teams were evenly matched and the game was decided off the foot of Jeff Reed in overtime. Reed’s 33-yard game-winning field goal gave the Steelers a 13-10 victory over Tennessee, giving them a record of 1-0. Ben Roethlisberger had an impressive game, throwing for over 350 yards. Santonio Holmes picked up right where he left off in Super Bowl XLIII, as he had nine receptions for 131 yards, and a touchdown. Despite the victory and impressive individual performances, it is no secret that the Steelers do have some causes for concern as they prepare to take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field next Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ strong safety, Troy Polamalu, was injured midway through the second quarter of Thursday night’s game. The injury occurred after the Steelers successfully blocked a field goal attempt and Polamalu tried to recover the football. He is now expected to miss three to six weeks with a diagnosed MCL sprain. Losing Polamalu is without question a damaging blow to this defense. There will be no way the Steelers can replace Polamalu’s presence on the defense. He has the ability to make plays from anywhere on the field in the blink of an eye. The best the Steelers can do will be to try and fill the void left by Troy’s absence. The man who will be starting as strong safety until Polamalu is ready to return will be Tyrone Carter. Carter has been with the team for six seasons and has had five career-starts while wearing a Steelers’ uniform.
An issue that has carried over from last season, and continues to be burden for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is their rushing offense. The Steelers only had 36 total yards on the ground, and struggled mightily on 3rd and short. The Steelers need a more balanced offensive attack if they hope to have success as this season continues. Willie Parker is in the last year of his contract and really needs to have a productive season, if he hopes to remain a Steeler past this season.
The Chicago Bears also had some struggles of their own as they played the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field last Sunday night. Linebacker, Brian Urlacher, was lost for the season with a broken wrist. Urlacher’s injury may very well hinder the playoff hopes of the Chicago Bears. Urlacher is the centerpiece of the Bears’ defense. His loss can only hurt the Bears. While the Bears search for answers on the defensive front, the offense is already in turmoil. New Bears’ quarterback, Jay Cutler, threw a career-high four interceptions against the Packers. Certainly, it was not the debut that Cutler had envisioned. The inexperience at the wide receiving position also showed for Chicago. The Bears’ receivers had countless drops on the evening. The Bears’ poor offensive play, particularly the struggles in the passing game, is what cost them, as they would fall to the Green Bay Packers 21-15.
It should be an interesting matchup when the Steelers and Bears meet on Sunday afternoon. Despite his slow start to the season, Jay Cutler remains one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL, with his ability to move around in the pocket and throw on the run. Devin Hester will have to be accounted for at all times by the Steelers’ defense. He is a lethal return man, and is Cutler’s favorite target. The Steelers could also have their hands full with Bears’ halfback, Matt Forte. Forte had over 1,200 yards rushing in his rookie campaign, and had eight rushing touchdowns. The Steelers should find themselves having an easier time running the ball this week. The run defense of the Chicago Bears does not appear to be so daunting without Urlacher lined up at middle linebacker. The Steelers’ offensive line played pretty decent in pass protection last week. It will be a good battle when they line up against the Bears front four on Sunday.
Michael C. Smith