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Jay Cutler studying for first big test of season

Updated: September 20, 2013 1:38PM



Jay Cutler will take wife Kristin Cavallari’s word for it when she says their appearance on the sitcom “The League” turned out well. He hasn’t seen it and doesn’t think he will any time soon.

He has been engrossed in study of the Steelers’ two-gap 3-4 defense.

“It’s complex,” Cutler said.

With the Bears on the road for the first time and facing a tricky defense, it’ll be a good early gauge for Cutler.

He has been commended for his grasp of coach Marc Trestman’s quarterback-empowering offense and his overall football IQ. On Thursday, the praise included receiver Brandon Marshall calling him brilliant and Trestman describing him as extremely bright and extremely experienced.

The Steelers’ defense — with legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau as its mastermind, plenty of disguised looks and zone blitzes to identify and a freelancing safety in Troy Polamalu to closely watch — will test that brilliance, brightness and experience.

The Bears’ offense is dependent on Cutler. He’s given multiple plays to select at the line of scrimmage. It’s on him to identify the coverages and blitzes. And Cutler has earned Trestman’s trust and confidence with two strong games against the Bengals and Vikings — teams that play a 4-3.

But Pittsburgh’s defense is a different animal. LeBeau built the zone blitz to beat West Coast offenses such as the one the Bears run.

“They show a lot of different looks, so you have to be prepared,” Cutler said.

“We just don’t see it often. . . . It’s something that if you don’t see something, if you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s going to take an extra second, an extra click to really get it, but we’ve had a good week so far trying to duplicate it as best we can.”

The Bears face the Packers’ 3-4 defense twice a season. Cutler’s numbers in 2012 against Green Bay — 23-for-48 passing, 261 yards, two touchdowns, five interceptions and 11 sacks in two ugly defeats — don’t exactly scream productivity.

But the Bears are a different offense under Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer with a new protection scheme and four new players (Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills) doing the protecting.

The Bears have allowed only one sack in two games, and that was on a botched screen that Cutler blames himself for. Cutler reiterated Thursday that he feels more comfortable in this offense.

“I feel better about the plan so far,” Cutler said. “I feel really good about our third-down plan, protection-wise, [against the Steelers].”

To prepare for Pittsburgh, the Bears have gone through more walk-throughs, and there has been a strong emphasis on technique up front.

Trestman said silent counts will be used most of the time because of the noise at Heinz Field and to throw off LeBeau’s defense.

But it still comes down to what Cutler does. He can enhance his own comfort level by what he does at the line. The plays and sets depend on him. And the quarterback, who also has been called a genius by teammates, appears to be doing everything he can — his acting career be damned.

“[Cutler is] willing to grind it out with the coaches,” Trestman said. “He’s in early — earlier than the players. We spend a lot of time even before . . . we start with the players, the rest of the team.

‘‘Then once the players are excused, he’s still with us working on engineering the game plan and customizing it to fit him and our offense.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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