The Steelers defense has not forced a turnover and has recorded just one sack in the first two games of the season. One important factor in the defense being subdued is the Steelers did not hold a lead in the second half against Tennessee or Cincinnati.
When the Steelers have a lead, opposing offensive coordinators believe they have to force the issue and it creates situations when quarterbacks can be prone to turnovers.
"I don't think my play-calling would be influenced, but it's a different game when you're playing with a lead than from behind," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "Their play-calling is different. But we don't want to make any excuses. The numbers are what they are, and we're going to pick those numbers up."
LeBeau is more concerned about the lack of turnovers than the number of sacks. In time, he believes, the sacks will come.
Lack of turnovers has been a troublesome trend for the Steelers the past two seasons, as well. They forced 20 last season and 15 in 2011. Just as the offense can help the defense by getting a lead, LeBeau said the defense can help the offense by getting some turnovers.
"We have to get the ball turned over some for our guys," LeBeau said.
Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley registered the only sack in the opener against Tennessee, but LeBeau has been happy with the pressure his front has provided.
"I think our pressure has been good these first two games," he said. "I haven't seen that quarterback sitting back there and having all day to throw the ball. We've gotten [to] both quarterbacks early in the game and I think it affected their play. We broke down [on] a couple of coverages against Cincinnati. It wasn't the throws as much as us beating ourselves. We can't let that happen.
"The guys have done a good job of getting pressure. The ball is going to be out. They know we're coming, and we're going to come. Sacks can be a deceiving figure, really. If you're making a quarterback throw the ball that fast, and he's not throwing it very accurately, then those guys are doing a good job out there."
Receiver Markus Wheaton, the third-round draft choice in the spring, has played 12 snaps on offense in the first two games, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expects that to change this week. Roethlisberger said Wheaton is likely to be a bigger part of the offense against the Bears.
Wheaton, who impressed with his playmaking ability in training camp, is without a reception in the first two games.
"He is doing great," Roethlisberger said. "He doesn't say much. I kind of have to force things out of him because I am really trying to develop a relationship with him both on and off the field. I think it's important because I think he's a guy we can use as a weapon. He's a smart guy. He has a good understanding of the offense. He doesn't really make mistakes. For me, he is more than ready to get in and start doing some stuff for us."
Wheaton's locker is next to Roethlisberger's at the practice facility on the South Side. He said he quietly lobbies his quarterback for an expanded role.
"All I can do is continue to stay in my [playbook], pick Ben's mind and try to keep learning and try to prove to the coaches that I am ready," he said.
Jones ready if called on
Running back Felix Jones, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia late in training camp, is the team's leading rusher after two games and is expected to get more carries against the Bears. Coach Mike Tomlin said as much Tuesday at his news conference when he said he was excited about some of the positives Jones brought to the table against the Bengals.
Jones carried 10 times for 37 yards last week against the Bengals after not getting any carries in the opener against Tennessee. With 75 yards rushing in two games, the Steelers are off to their worst rushing start in franchise history.
"Every team has different types of struggles," said Jones, who played his first five seasons with the Cowboys before going to camp with the Eagles this summer.
"You have to continue to work at it. You can't give up on it in the first two weeks. There's a long season ahead of us. We're definitely getting better at it."
Bell making progress
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, who was in line to earn the starting job before injuring his foot in training camp, continues to inch closer toward being game-ready. He was a full participant in practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
"I feel like my foot is getting real close," he said. "I'm just going to take it day by day, do more each day if my foot allows. I'm just going to be smart about it."
Rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (heel) was limited for a second day in a row, but LeBeau said he will be a full participant today and expects him to play. Starting cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice for a second day in a row.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1 First Published September 20, 2013 4:00 AM