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Steelers' defense a stiff test for Bears' offensive line
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their 3-4 defense. Last week, the Bears offense look confused at times against the Packers' 3-4 defense.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 9/18/2009 12:03 AM

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If the Bears didn't know beforehand how difficult it would be to decipher and defuse Green Bay's 3-4 defense, then everything became clear by their third play in Sunday night's loss at Lambeau Field.

With the Bears facing third-and-8, the Packers started with two tackles in a three-point stance. Outside linebackers Aaron Kampman and Clay Matthews flanked them along the line.

As Jay Cutler scanned the defense and called the signals, nickel back Charles Woodson and inside linebacker Brandon Chillar edged toward the line as if they might blitz.

But upon the snap, Woodson and Matthews and tackle Johnny Jolly dropped back into coverage.

Chillar blitzed around right tackle and was picked up nicely by running back Matt Forte. Left tackle Orlando Pace handled a down lineman on the other side with no problem.

But the other FOUR Bears linemen crowded around Kampman's stunt toward the middle, which allowed blitzing left cornerback Tramon Williams an unimpeded sprint toward Cutler.

That forced Cutler to cut loose early, and his pass to Earl Bennett over the middle never had a chance.

As the game wore on, the Packers showcased virtually everything in their 3-4 arsenal with little discernible pattern - and little discernible success by the Bears' blocking scheme.

Did we mention that Pittsburgh, the defending Super Bowl champion that shows up at Soldier Field on Sunday, runs the 3-4 defense, too?

"They're going to obviously look at the Green Bay film and see all the blitzes," Cutler said. "And I don't know if they're going to incorporate some of those or not, but there is some carry-over. We just need to be prepared for everything."

It's fair to say the Bears, who had three new starters on the offensive line, weren't prepared for everything in Green Bay.

"It was Week 1," said Bears left guard Frank Omiyale, the free agent who signed a front-loaded four-year contract that pays him an estimated $6.3 million in 2009. "They're still gelling just like we were. I feel like both teams are going to get better as we go."

On Cutler's 4 interceptions and 2 dropped picks, here's what the Packers defense showed and did:

• Five guys on the line and four rushers (Williams drops interception).

• Six guys on line and four rushers (Williams gets hand on potential interception).

• Four guys on line and four rushers (Nick Collins interception).

• Six guys on line, most of whom are allowed to rush because it's a screen pass (Jolly interception).

• Four guys on line, six rushers (Williams' interception).

• Four guys on line and four rushers (Al Harris' game-ending interception).

Even on Cutler's 68-yard bomb to rookie wideout Johnny Knox, he took a hit from unblocked blitzing linebacker A.J. Hawk a split-second after releasing the ball.

Why rehash Green Bay's successes when the opener is five days in the rearview mirror? Because Pittsburgh's version of the 3-4 defense leaves the Packers looking like kids making silly faces in the mirror.

Green Bay has been running the 3-4 for exactly one regular-season game. Pittsburgh, under 72-year-old defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, has been the NFL's 3-4 standard for more than 20 years.

While that means there's plenty of video for the Bears to review - the Packers had nothing but preseason stuff - it won't necessarily help to know the Steelers' tendencies.

"Every defense and offense has tendencies and things like that," Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "But when you have players like they have, tendencies don't matter. You can know they're coming, it's still very difficult to stop them. They're outstanding. Their talent is really, really good."

The Steelers won't have perennial Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu due to a knee sprain, which leaves them just four starters with a Pro Bowl pedigree.

Outside linebacker James Harrison earned the NFL's 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award after piling up a franchise-record 16 sacks. Nose tackle Casey Hampton, playing what's deemed the most critical position in the 3-4, has appeared in four of the last five Pro Bowls.

The Steelers also believe they have potential Pro Bowlers in linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley - their first two picks in the 2007 NFL draft.

Omiyale, a sports-talk radio whipping post since the Packers game ended, says the offensive line just needs to rely on its principles and stick with the basics against Pittsburgh.

"We feel good about where we're going," Omiyale said. "It's another week and another time to show what we can do."