NFL Preview: Chicago Bears @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Defense to take Steelers to victory

The Pittsburgh Steelers could become the first team to win 50 Monday Night Football Games when they take on the Chicago Bears.

On Monday night the Chicago Bears (3-5) take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) in a game that has the potential to be dominated by the defenses of both teams.

Usually when the Bears defense records takeaways the team wins. In their three victories this season they have seven takeaways compared to one in their five losses. When the Steelers have come up against sides with a winning record they have lost this season - their three losses have been against teams with 5+ wins. None of the three teams that Pittsburgh have beaten on their current win streak have a winning record. 

The Bears have struggled on offense with rookie quarterback Justin Fields slowly adjusting to life in the NFL, but they are the fourth-best rushing side in the NFL. The Bears are the first team since the Tennesee Titans in 2008 to have fewer than 200 pass yards in each of their first eight games this season.

History suggests that things won't improve for Fields this week as the Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is 22-4 against starting rookie quarterbacks. 

Planet Sport takes an in-depth look at the fixture, and Planet Sport Bet's NFL acca means customers get their money back as a free bet if one leg lets you down.

Best bets

Total points under 35.5 6/4

Chicago Bears under 11.5 points 9/4

Pittsburgh Steelers over 29.5 points 5/2

When: November 9, 2021 - 1.15am (BST)

Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

How to watch: NFL Game Pass/Sky Sports NFL

Background information: Chicago Bears vs Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2021 NFL season has been a comedy of errors for the Chicago Bears.

Through the early weeks of the season, the team chose Andy Dalton as their starting quarterback much to the annoyance of their fanbase who wanted rookie Justin Fields. An injury to Dalton forced the hand of head coach Matt Nagy and Fields was selected but with mixed results.

The Bears defense in recent years has been one of the best in the NFL with countless stars at all positions. However this season, despite the core of their defense from previous years still in Chicago, they have not been able to find the form of past campaigns.

The fact that the Bears' offense has not been able to sustain drives has meant that the defense has not had enough rest in between plays and have quickly tired.

The main reason the Steelers have struggled against winning teams has been their underfiring offense. Similarly to the Bears, the offense hasn't been helping out the defense. The Steelers have Najee Harris who is an exciting rookie running back - Harris has been the lone bright spark of the Steelers offense.

They have no receiver with over 500-yards through eight weeks meaning they struggle to have a balanced offense and are forced to rely on Harris.

However, their record on Monday night and their ability to beat rookie quarterback is a good omen for them. Their defence is also a positive, particularly their edge rushers. The Chicago offensive line has allowed an NFL-high 30 sacks and will have to hold off TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith and Cam Heyward if they are to win.

Quarterback matchup: Justin Fields vs Ben Roethlisberger

Before the season started, there was a lot of hype around Fields and how he could transform the Bears franchise. As with a lot of things, this didn't happen overnight.

Fields has struggled throwing the ball when he has come up against NFL secondaries that are a lot more experienced than him. In his last two games, he has had six total giveaways and only two total touchdowns. On the season he has 991-yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also has 243 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

He is a part of the modern wave of the dual-threat quarterbacks and, with experience, he could become one of the league's best.

Roethlisberger is one of the league's oldest quarterbacks and is a Super Bowl winner with the Steelers in 2009.

He was never a very mobile quarterback but as he has become older, he has become even more one-dimensional. His 1-3 against the Chicago Bears is tied for his worst record against any single opponent in his career.

"Big Ben" has 1,781-passing yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions on the season so far.

Many pundits believe that Roethlisberger is washed-up and passed it but he is still doing a job for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers. However, the Steelers have no one on their roster that could surpass him as the starter and with the quarterback class in the 2022 NFL Draft looking sparse, he could be around for a few more years to come.

Key men

Najee Harris - Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris has the 11th most rush yards in the NFL

Harris has been the star of the Pittsburgh offense through the first half of the season. He finished his time in college as a two-time College Football Playoff Champion as well as all-time leader in rushing yards, total scrimmage yards and touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October. He finished the 10th month of the year with four touchdowns, 356-rushing yards, 124-receiving yards with an average of 120 scrimmage yards per game. In a game that will be dominated by defenses, Harris will be the lone star on offense.

TJ Watt - Pittsburgh Steelers

The Chicago Bears have allowed a league-high 30 sacks so far this season and expect that number to rise when TJ Watt takes to the field on Monday night. Watt is one of the league's best defensive ends and is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.

He has a massive 8.5 sacks on the season which is the second-most in the NFL as well as three forced fumbles. He is freaky in size and his speed makes him one of the trickiest players to block.

Darnell Mooney - Chicago Bears

Darnell Mooney making a catch

Darnell Mooney is currently listed as questionable for the game on Monday night, however, he is expected to play against Pittsburgh. Mooney has been Fields go-to receiver and with the Steelers rush defense being one of their strengths, Mooney will be a key part of the passing game.

Mooney's ability to get open quickly will be key if the Bears are to win.

Roquan Smith - Chicago Bears

In 2018 the Chicago Bears drafted Roquan Smith with the eighth overall pick and this season Smith has been putting up impressive numbers. Smith leads the Bears with 81 total tackles, two sacks and has one of the teams four interceptions.

He is listed as active and will be looking to slow down Najee Harris and help the Bears snap a three-game losing streak.

Previous matchups

The two sides have met 27 times with the Bears winning 19 times
The two sides have met 27 times with the Bears winning 19 times

September 24, 2017: Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Chicago Bears 23

The Bears needed overtime to overcome the Steelers in the teams most recent matchup in 2017. Chicago running back Jordan Howard scored on a 19-yard run in overtime to take the Bears to a 23-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Bears quarterback Mike Glennon did not fire and it fell on Howard to carry the offense on his injured shoulder. Howard had 138 of Chicago's 220 yards rushing and two touchdown runs.

September 22, 2013: Chicago Bears 40 Pittsburgh Steelers 23

The Bears defense dominated back in 2013 as the Chicago Bears (3-0) stayed unbeaten, inflicting a third straight defeat on the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3). Chicago's defense forced five turnovers and scored twice as they dominated Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense.

September 20, 2009: Pittsburgh Steelers 14 Chicago Bears 17

Back in 2013, these two sides met in a cagey affair that was won off a 44-yard field goal from Robbie Gould. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler went 27 for 38 with 236-yards and two touchdowns.

He threw a five-yard pass on third down to Devin Hester to get his side into field goal range to help them win their first game of the season.