Chicago Sun-Times

Getting down to business with Bears-Steelers

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Now that we have enough distance between "The Coaches Show" and Jay Cutler and four interceptions and Lambeau Field, we can get fully immersed in the preparation for Sunday's meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are five points to consider as we start the day:

1. The Steelers have 10 days to prepare for the game having played the Thursday game last week as the defending champion, but it still might not be enough time for inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons to heal up. He sat out the Tennessee game with a high ankle sprain and tweaked it in practice on Wednesday. That's not a good sign for a defense already without strong safety Troy Polamalu, who Love Smith called their best defensive player. That's high praise considering outside linebacker James Harrison was the NFL's defensive player of the year last season. Plenty of talent all around.

2. Linebacker Tim Shaw went through his first practice with the team Wednesday after being signed to fill the roster spot created when Brian Urlacher was placed on injured reserve. He'll work toward a role on special teams after he gets acclimated to the defense. Shaw was a fifth-round by Carolina in 2007 from Penn State.

"He ran a 4.5 at the combine and he's fast,'' special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "We liked him coming out of school as a special teams player. He's a good athlete.''

Toub is going to be challenged against the Steelers with Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach being forced into the starting lineup at linebacker. Cornerback Trumaine McBride (right knee) will be sidelined too so depth will be tested quickly, and Toub will have to juggle lineups.

3. Lovie Smith didn't leave much doubt that Zack Bowman was movin' on up in the secondary now that Charles Tillman is expected to man left cornerback by himself after splitting some time at Green Bay coming off back surgery. Tillman was not listed on the initial injury report on Wednesday. Bowman is going to chew up playing time from Nathan Vasher on the other side if not take it all together, a move that has been anticipated since training camp when Smith said he was holding two starting spots for Tillman and Bowman.

4. What will the Bears do at wide receiver Sunday? Devin Aromashodu, who quickly emerged as a favorite Jay Cutler target during training camp and preseason, was not on the injury report after a slightly pulled quad sidelined him last week. In his place, rookie Johnny Knox was active at Green Bay and the speedster from Abilene Christian gained 82 yards on two catches, including the 68-yarder in the second quarter when he blew past veteran Charles Woodson. The Bears could de-activate veteran Rashied Davis, but he plays a key role on special teams where the Bears are already going to be short-handed. Aromashodu is the big target the Bears don't have elsewhere on the roster. Knox has Devin Hester-type speed.

5. The expectation is that Danieal Manning will eventually get worked in at free safety but with a back injury sidelining him in practice Wednesday, it's another road block in that move. Manning was supposed to win the job in training camp when a pulled hamstring kept him sidelined too often to qualify him for the job. In the meantime, Kevin Payne will have to improve his play because it will probably come down to him and rookie Al Afalava for a spot at strong safety. That's when Manning is finally ready to move from nickel to free safety. Let's consider the secondary in motion for the time being.

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15 Comments

Brad, Urlacher on Special Teams? Typo of IR I'm sure.

That is a good question, who do you go with, the speedster Johnny Knox, or the bigger more physical Devin Aromashodu? Myself, Im curious to see what Aromashodu has got to offer. I loved the 68 yarder by Knox, he's gonna be a good one, but like Brad basically said, we already have a speedster in starter Devin Hester. And Aromashodu proved in the pre-season he can also stretch the field. Chicago doesn't have a big physical wideout like Aromashodu currently. I think Chicago probably would have went with Aromashodu had he not been injured. Knox probably needs a little more time to learn the offense, and work on his route running. In the end, you let em both line up in practice and go with the best guy. I'm betting it's gonna be Aromashodu, we'll see?

It will also be interesting to see who lines up at right cornerback. It's starting to sound like Zack Bowman. Bowman and Tillman will both give the Bears a set of corners with size, as their both a little over 6 foot. Vasher made some nice tackles sunday night, but he just doesn't seem to be the same in coverage as he was a couple seasons back. It's probably time to let another prospect, like Bowman, have a crack at the job. Hopefully Bowman can come in and play the ball a little more, maybe break up a few passes. If Bowman falters, I say give 3rd year cornerback Corey Graham a shot, I didn't think he was all that bad last season as a starter. D.J Moore is another one to consider, although he's probably a season away, he could surprise by next season.

The key to the game will be containing Big Ben, and not allowing him to get outside the pocket to make plays. Also, the safeties need to be careful not to bite on Big Ben's pump fakes. Offensively, Chicago's o-line is gonna have to come to play, especially the left side [Pace & Omiyale], these guy's need to step up their games a little. The Packers Cullen Jenkins was having his way with Omiyale the other night, Chicago can't have that again sunday. If Omiyale continues to struggle, it might be time to let Josh Beekman have a shot at the job. Oh yeah, Forte, Forte, and more Forte. Cutler needs to get him involved in the passing game a little more. It should be another good game nonetheless GO BEARS!!

I hope Bowman gets the start opposite Tillman, not because of Vasher's performance especially on that one play, but because I think Bowman earned it in pre-season.

I for one would like to see Aromashodu activated, if he's indeed good to go. Rashied Davis did see the field as a WR, and while he is a good ST player, I fear Davis will limit what the Bears can do on offense. Knox's speed and big-play ability is hard to keep on the bench, but it's a bit early for the Bears to be counting on him for clutch plays. Tough choice between Davis and Knox, but I want to see Knox, and hope the other guys on ST can step it up.

Danieal Manning, wow, what a play on that sack! But still, to me, the thought of him at FS is a bit scary. Afalava and Payne didn't particularly have a good game in GB, getting beat deep by the Packers' WRs on a number of occasions (we got lucky). S is the weakest link on defense (the depleted LBs are closing fast), and they'll have to learn to play it safe. I hope Manning stays at NB.

I have to say, I liked what Garrett Wolfe was able to do in GB; he had some good carries. And I also want to see AP. I think AP actually hits the hole faster and harder than Forte or Wolfe. Both Wolfe and AP can be good change-of-pace guys, and I'm wondering if it's not a bad idea to sub them in not for an entire series but for a play or two here and there throughout the game.

Go Bears!

Keep Knox activated. You can't coach speed. Have to throw the bomb to Knox at least once a game. The Bears have a real weapon in Knox and they should use him.

I hope Lovie starts Zack Bowman ahead of Nate Vasher. Bowman was "The Man" during OTA's and pre-season,and Vasher looks to have lost a step and plays scared. D-line HAS to get Big Ben on the turf and watching Thursday night's game, the opportunity should be there. Hoke needs to remind all his DB's not to bite on Rothlisburgers pump fakes, a point made by Kevin A. I also agree w/ Kevin on the WR's. Let Devin A. and Knox battle it out in practice and play the best one !

I'd also like to see Aromashodu in there, even if they have to sit Knox. It kind of depends on why Cutler likes him. If it's because Cutler can more easily find DA when he's scrambling, I'd definately give it a shot.

Despite the mixed results last week, I feel better about the wide receiver position. Reading between the lines, the Bears are basically saying that they enough talent at receiver to succeed. Even though they made some mistakes, from what they showed at Green Bay they do have the talent. They are going to have to develop this talent. The only way to do that is to bite the bullet and let the kids in the game sometimes.

"Speedster" Knox? please. Sure, he "blew" by Charles Woodson, but then he was caught from behind by him. That was the play of the game. Knox scores and the Bears win. I know, Woodson is fast, but he is also 33 years old. If Knox, at 23, is as fast as everyone thinks he is, no way he gets caught from behind with a 4 yard cushion by a 33 year old. This play was bigger, because of the problems in the Red Zone the Bears had. It was the play of the game. Knox couldn't finish it with his greatest asset and Woodson did.

Creighton it's been five and a half months since you made your promise to strip down to your lingerie in front of thousands of people. I hope that's been more than enough time to get your soggy butt into shape. Remember what you said because there's only a few days left for you to man up.

By Creighton on March 25, 2009 11:48 PM

"In fact I am so sure that Angelo will not get him [Cutler] that if he does, I will be outside Soilder Field in a hot pink panties that say spank me, singing the Crackers Happy birthday to me while holding up a sign that reads Brando rules and I suck...First home game and I will also paint myself Orange and Blue and get a tattoo thats says Angelo is the man on my forehead."

http://blogs.suntimes.com/bears/2009/03/rocky_mountain_high_bears_repo.html

You know how you tell everyone that you're the king on these boards? Well for one day you can be queen!

Manu up, Creighton. Man up.

I would like to see the Bears and Lovie commit a player to the position and leave him there for awhile. Payne really had a tough time last week at Free Safety. Manning is now hurt but once he gets well it is the time to see if he can get the job done at Free.

Payne or Alfalava, at strong. Probably Payne but watch out for this kid he seems to be a player and has some speed as well.

Bowman should start at Corner with Vasher #2, big money for a number two guy may make him expendable down the road.

Pittsburgh is tough up front on the defense and will probably dominate the left side of the line of scrimmage however there is a hole in the secondary with Polamolu out, watch out for Hester deep and maybe Olsen.

The strategy is to run the ball with Forte, however running the ball against the Steelers has always been somewhat problematic and most likely will be on Sunday. Cutler may have to win this one with play action passes to the tight ends and maybe deep to Hester, Bennett, Knox and passes to Forte out of the backfield.

I just don't see the Bears ramming the rock down the Steelers throat this week.

The Bears defense will be tested against the pass but I have a feeling that the Steelers are going to come out and try running the ball a whole lot to prove they can after their poor effort against the Titans in running the ball. The Bears pass rush will truly help to determine the outcome of the game, they have to nail Big Ben at least a few times.

For the Bears, the game comes down to getting more production out of Forte and Olsen.

If the WRs can produce similar results to last week's game, they will be fine. It's Olsen and Forte that have to kick it into high gear.

I fear that O. Pace may get a schooling all afternoon, but the Bears can put a TE on his side to help out.

I also think Mendenhall will have a productive game for the Steelers as will their TE.

Bowman, Aromashodu, and Knox? - Yes, but you know what always ticks me off about Da, is other teams are signing Free Agents due to injuries and we sign Shaw? Forget HH he has had how long to secure a starting job? But noooooo, the guy's that can't start due to inefficiency are starting? I think I would look at FA LB pretty hard.

Forte did not have many holes against GB, the same against the Steelers I am thinking, unless we open it up with some passes, Forte will have a hard time of it.

Good point Tirex18.

I tend to agree with Kevin A & MsBEARS fan, we should take a look at Aromashodu to see if he and Cutler have any chemistry, but it won't be the performance of the wideouts that will give us a shot Sunday against the Steelers. We need our playmakers to be involved and Seedy is right those guys are Forte and Olsen, we can't let teams game plan us out of what we want to do as an Offense, once you let that happen you are in trouble, because then we are not taking advantage of the match ups we feel we have in our favor on offense.
My concern is with the youth of our defense, Brian being out will hurt but Hunter will be serviceable in the middle, Roach will have to have a strong game, and I expect to see Williams finally get some snaps on the defensive side of the ball. We also need to give Payne a chance to settle into one spot on defense as well, playing strong safety versus free asks the player to do two different things, in the cover two it is actually easier to play strong safety than free because at strong you are expected to help in the run game, the free has to be aware of the deep passing game, and be slow to react to play-action. Right now Payne still wants to get involved in the run game and his tendency as the game wears on is to inch his way up the field. It is no coincidence the slackers called that deep ball after a time out on Sunday the coaches probably saw Payne inching up to make a play. I like this guy and think he has potential to be a real factor for us on defense, but we have to let him become comfortable in one spot so his playmaking ability can come to the forefront on our defense. Bowman and Graham are starting to make the corner spot look better than it has in a while from a depth stand point, not sure what we get from the Smith signing, but he should add size over McBride and help on special teams...This week's big I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of character we have as a team.......Go BEARS

Zack Bowman has a lot more potential to be a good corner than Nate Vasher, but he's still learning. In the pre-season game after his interception, Bowman got beat deep and had to hold in order to avoid a TD. And of course there's the injury issue with him. I'd say start him now so he can learn, but be prepared to give up some big plays while he's learning. Vasher's not bad for a third corner, but he's not a starter anymore. Don't know what happened to him, he's just not the same player he was a few years ago.

If the Bear defense doesn't play well, they don't have a chance. So assuming it does, the Bears will need a lot better play from their offensive line in order to beat Pittsburgh. If they thought blocking the Packers was hard, wait till they try blocking the Steelers.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on September 17, 2009 5:36 AM.

Bears make claim for DE McBride, but miss out on him was the previous entry in this blog.

Fake punt for 12 men on the field remains in the playbook is the next entry in this blog.

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