Ten reactions and tidbits from the game:
1. The question all week was how would the Bears defense respond without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, lost for the season with a dislocated right wrist. It didn't look good from the start as the Steelers rolled up 144 yards offense on their first two possessions. Pittsburgh led just 7-0 because Ben Roethlisberger and rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace clearly were crossed up on an easy interception for Charles Tillman.
From there, the Bears' defense responded. Down two linebackers--Pisa Tinoisamoa missed with a sprained right knee--the Bears used three to fill the void. Hunter Hillenmeyer played middle linebacker and Nick Roach and Jamar Williams shared time on the strong side. On Pittsburgh's next seven possessions, it totaled just 164 yards offense. The difference was with the front seven. The Bears applied pressure and while defensive end Alex Brown got the only two sacks for the unit, Roethlisberger was forced to do two things. First, he had to get rid of the ball quickly. Second, he had to throw short. With the defensive backs doing a good job of tackling, it worked.
There is no question Urlacher was missed, but the defense is accustomed to playing without stars. At some point each of the previous five seasons, the Bears had to deal with the loss of safety Mike Brown. They also were forced to play without tackle Tommie Harris in their march to Super Bowl XLI.
2. In a perfect world, the Bears figured they might get some use out of Johnny Knox, the fifth-round pick from Abilene Christian, as a slot receiver. The club took the smart approach with him and kept it simple in training camp, asking him to just learn one position. The hope was he wouldn't be overloaded like Earl Bennett was last season when he was asked to learn all three positions at one time. Bennett wound up barely seeing the field because the coaches couldn't trust him. That's clearly not the case with Knox, who had a team-high six receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. After two games, he leads the team with 152 receiving yards. To put that in perspective, last season's starting wide receivers Devin Hester and Rashied Davis each needed five games to amass that many yards.
The Bears had strong feelings for Knox. The area scout Chris Ballard knows Abilene Christian, the Division II program that also produced free safety Danieal Manning, well. Ballard coached in the Lone Star Conference previously at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He knows the coaches in the league and he sees the players frequently. When Knox went from an unknown to running a sub-4.3 40-yard dash at the combine, it only strengthened the Bears' belief in him. Some clubs viewed him as a project because he had spent two years at Tyler Junior College, but the Bears believed with his speed he could contribute quickly.
3. Knox's development looks like it might keep Devin Aromashodu on the bench for a while. Aromashodu won the No. 3 receiving job in preseason and became a favorite target of Jay Cutler quickly. But a pulled quad muscle sidelined him for the opener. Knox had a 68-yard reception at Green Bay, and the coaching staff wasn't about to send him to the sideline. Now, Aromashodu might have to bide his time because the offense hasn't shown much in the way of four-receiver sets, and Rashied Davis' special teams ability will keep him active on game days. When position coach Darryl Drake joked about Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig, well, he wasn't really joking. Of course, Aromashodu can't exactly play the role of Pipp seeing as his next regular-season game in a Bears' uniform will be his first.
4. There's no doubt that questions about the running game will pop up this week. Matt Forte has 84 yards on 38 rushes giving him a paltry yards per carry average of 2.2. It's about the same usage he had to begin his rookie season last year, but after two games in 2008 Forte had 215 yards on 46 rushes. There is not a good explanation for the struggles running the ball at Green Bay, but the Steelers annually have one of the best run defenses in the league. The Bears are still working to gel on the offensive line with new starters in three of the five spots. The line looked better with left tackle Orlando Pace playing better, and left guard Frank Omiyale getting downfield on some bubble screens. If the Bears are in search of a cure, it may come in the form of the Seahawks. San Francisco's Frank Gore, running behind a suspect line, motored for 207 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle. The Niners rushed for 256 yards on just 29 carries in their victory, and the Bears head to Seattle Sunday.
5. Defensive end Mark Anderson already figures he'll be $5,000 lighter in the wallet. Anderson was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he shoved tight end Heath Miller after a third-quarter run was well over. Miller had been pushing Anderson, but it's the last one who usually gets caught, especially considering Anderson's shove sent Miller into umpire Butch Hannah.
"That was retaliation,'' Anderson said. "He was pushing on me late and I retaliated. It was a bonehead mistake. Now, I have a $5,000 fine.''
6. Don't forget the fumble recovery by tight end Greg Olsen in the fourth quarter. Matt Forte gained 12 yards on a swing pass on the first play of the game-winning drive before Steelers linebacker James Harrison stripped the ball loose. It squirted forward and Olsen wisely fell on it around a posse of defenders. It wound up being a 22-yard gain.
7. Defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, who was inactive in Week 1, got a little bit of work in the second half and provided some energy off the bench.
8. If you were waiting to see defensive tackle Tommie Harris, how about when he burst through the line to drop Mewelde Moore for a two-yard loss in the fourth quarter? That was his only tackle according to press box statistics, but it came on a first down with the Steelers closing in on field-goal range.
9. I wrote it here last week after a terrific game by punter Brad Maynard, and I will write it again. He might finally earn some Pro Bowl recognition this season. Maynard had another strong game with six kicks averaging 45.8 yards. More importantly, his net was 39.8. If shifty Steelers return man Stefan Logan had not had a 19-yard return, it would have looked even better.
10. Not to look too far ahead, but after the trip to Seattle next week, the Bears host the Detroit Lions. Line coach Rod Marinelli was fired by Detroit after last season and the Lions could bring a 20-game losing streak into the meeting. Currently at 19 games, the Lions (who play Washington Sunday) are tied with the Chicago Cardinals (1942-43, 1945) and the Oakland Raiders (1961-62) for the second-longest losing streak in NFL history. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their first 26 games starting in 1976. If you're really looking ahead, the Bears close the season with the Lions, by which time they'll most certainly have a victory, right? It is the NFL. Parity rules.
We will check in Monday morning with a look at some key plays in the game.