Ben Roethlisberger's four turnovers resulted in three touchdowns, including two in the first half, and it was too much to overcome. His fumble on a sack at the Bears' 17 on the third offensive play led to a 10-0 lead. And, after the Steelers cut the lead to 17-3, his third-down pass was intercepted and returned for a 38-yard TD. He also had a fumble returned for a touchdown by DE Julius Peppers. After that, it didn't matter that he passed for 406 yards, threw two nice touchdowns to Antonio Brown and had a 104.8 rating.
After rushing for a franchise-low 76 yards to start the season, the Steelers rushed for 55 yards in the first half, thanks to a 25-yard run by Jonathan Dwyer. They finished with 80 yards on 21 carries, eclipsing their total of 76 yards from the first two games. But another big turnover, this one a fumble by Felix Jones on the first series of the third quarter, led to a field goal and a 27-10 deficit. The good news: Rookie Le'Veon Bell could return next game.
Antonio Brown finally looked like the big-play receiver he is expected to be, catching four passes for 105 yards in the first half, including a nice 33-yard touchdown over CB Tim Jennings. His best catch, though, was a one-handed 21-yarder for a touchdown in the third quarter. Heath Miller started in his first game back from offseason ACL surgery and had three catches. David Johnson had two for a career-high 51 yards.
It's probably not much of an accomplishment, but the line at least managed to clear enough room to gain more yards and average more yards per carry than the first two games combined. But Roethlisberger was under pressure for most of the game, with both of his lost fumbles coming from pressure in the pocket. Because of the poor play on the tackles, Kelvin Beachum took turns replacing Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert in the first half.
The Steelers tried to apply pressure on QB Jay Cutler with DEs Brett Keisel and Cam Heyward, and Keisel had the only sack in the first half. But Cutler got rid of the ball fast and did a good job stepping up from pressure. The Bears rushed for 102 yards on 22 carries, though 55 came on a first-down run by Matt Forte that led to the Bears' second touchdown. Forte finished with 87 yards on 16 carries.
The Steelers tried to apply lots of pressure on Cutler, and LaMarr Woodley was close so many times. He had one of the two sacks. Rookie ILB Vince Williams vacated his spot on a 55-yard run, but he played very well and appears to have wrested the job from Kion Wilson. After Forte's run, the Bears managed just 57 yards on 21 carries.
After not allowing a pass play longer than 11 yards for most of the game, the secondary allowed a 41-yard pass to Brandon Marshall and a 21-yard touchdown catch by Earl Bennett with 5:48 remaining. On both catches, Ike Taylor and rookie Shamarko Thomas each had good coverage, but Cutler made perfect throws. Prior to that, Taylor held Marshall to four catches for 11 yards. CB William Gay, who filled in for injured Cortez Allen, was solid again on the edge.
This was a big area of concern because of the presence of Devin Hester, who has returned more punts and kickoffs for TDs (17) than any player in league history. But the Steelers held him in check, holding him to returns of 5 and 21 yards. Shaun Suisham was his usual consistent self with three field goals, but punter Zoltan Mesko has been inconsistent at best. But a roughing penalty against him kept alive the first TD drive. But, again, no game-changing plays at a time when the Steelers desperately needed them.
The Steelers haven't started 0-3 since the 2000 season, so it's a first for Mike Tomlin. Turnovers by Roethlisberger put them behind early and the defense did a good job to almost catch up. But almost isn't good enough, especially when there are five turnovers, no takeaways for a third consecutive game and no game-changing plays by the special teams. The Steelers have the look of a team with no identity, and their record is visible proof.
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