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Bears realize Steelers’ ‘D’ will be a challenge

Updated: September 20, 2013 1:34AM



Four decades separate the playing careers of Bears rookie offensive tackle Jordan Mills and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau — and there’s a 52-year age difference between them.

But Mills knows his football history.

“Their defensive coordinator is one of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game when he played with the Lions,” Mills said.

And Mills knows what LeBeau, who entered the Hall of Fame for his cornerback play and his coaching success, can do to make his life miserable Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

“You don’t know what’s going to come at you,” Mills said. “You just have to be ready for everything.”

All the success quarterback Jay Cutler and his weapons have had wouldn’t be possible if the offensive line had been as porous as last season. Without their success — one sack (on a botched screen play) on 72 pass attempts — Bears players wouldn’t be able describe Cutler as “cool, calm and collected.”

In that regard, the Steelers’ 3-4 defense poses a unique challenge for the Bears’ O-line, especially with this being their first road game and after facing 4-3 base teams in the Bengals and Vikings.

As awful as Pittsburgh is on offense right now, their defense remains respectable. The Steelers are No. 10 in total defense, and since LeBeau returned as their defensive coordinator in 2004, they rank first in sacks, points allowed, passing and rushing yards allowed and more since then.

Pittsburgh’s personnel may not be what it once was, but the matchup with the Bears, with two rookies in Kyle Long and Mills on the right side, is one that LeBeau will try to feast on. There will be plenty of exotic looks, zone blitzes and stunts. Mills also said the body types of Pittsburgh’s defensive linemen and linebackers are different from what they’ve faced.

“It’s a bigger test because you’re going against a top-10 defense every year,” Mills said. “And it’s a unique test because you’ve never seen it before. Dick LeBeau does a great job of scheming and drawing up great blitzes against teams, so it’s going to be a unique and big challenge.”

The Bears did face the Chargers’ 3-4 in their second preseason game, but the Steelers, in coach Marc Trestman’s opinion, are the standard when it comes to the scheme.

“They’re certainly as well-coached a defense as there’s ever been with Dick LeBeau,” Trestman said. “We all respect the heck out of him and what he’s done. They do it a lot of different ways. They come from different places.”

There’s plenty for the offense to pick up on. Trestman said the Steelers’ linebackers (namely LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and rookie Jarvis Jones) present “matchup issues” for their running backs in pass protection. Running back Matt Forte said his run reads are different because “if we’re blocking zone schemes and then they start blitzing, everything changes.” And the Bears always have to account for safety Troy Polamalu.

“Certainly, there’s nothing like going against the Steeler 3-4,” Trestman said. “It’s very good conceptually. It’s structured. It’s very good, as are the guys who play it.”

To prepare for it, the Bears are stressing technique, and they went through more walk-throughs Wednesday, and that will likely continue all week. As center Roberto Garza said, the Bears may have changed their protection schemes, but the only way to prepare for a two-gap, 3-4 defense is by seeing it.

“[A] 3-4 [defense] is a different scheme than we’re used to for everybody, not only the rookies,” Garza said. “Two-gap techniques [in the 3-4], the guys use their hands well and go straight down the line. They’re not penetrators like our guys. . . . It’s how we’re using our feet and our hands and trying to get on the guys and stay on them.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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