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Monday Night Football: Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Prediction and Preview

Monday Night Football: Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Prediction and Preview

Bears head to the Steel City looking to snap their three-game losing streak when they face the surging Steelers to wrap up Week 9

It's matchup under the lights between two of the NFL's charter franchises, as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football." 

These are two teams heading in different directions. The Steelers (4-3) are contenders in the AFC North division, which is still up for grabs to some degree, while the Bears (3-5) have lost three in a row and would like to put an end to this streak before heading into their bye week. 

Pittsburgh last week showed it won't go down without a fight as the Steelers came from behind to defeat Cleveland, while Chicago blew a second-half lead at home against San Francisco. This will be the Bears' first trip to Western Pennsylvania since 2013.

Monday Night Football: Chicago (3-5) at Pittsburgh (4-3)

Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 8 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Steelers -6.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Both offenses have had their struggles
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had better seasons during his long career, while the Bears' Justin Fields has experienced rookie growing pains. "Big Ben" is 22nd league-wide in passing yards (1,781), 21st in completion percentage (65.1), 17th in yards per attempt (6.6), and tied for 13th in touchdown passes (8). Roethlisberger also has the 13th-worst passer rating (87.6) and sixth-worst QBR (41.4). Roethlisberger usually has better statistical, but Father Time is undefeated. Perhaps his injuries (pectoral/hip/right shoulder) have played a role in that as well, and he has been limited in practice this week.

Wide receivers Diontae Johnson (3 TD catches) and Chase Claypool  (15.5 ypr) have combined for 877 receiving yards and have been Roethlisberger's top downfield weapons. Rookie running back Najee Harris has been as good as advertised, as he's 10th in the NFL in rushing yards (479), fourth in rushing attempts (128), and fifth among running backs in receiving yards (273). Expect him to be a major part of the offense on Monday night. But as a whole, the Steelers rank 24th in total offense (330.4 ypg), 16th in passing offense (244.4 ypg), 26th in scoring offense (18.9 ppg), and 28th in rushing offense — despite Harris' best efforts (86.0 ypg).

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The Bears, however, haven't been much better on this side of the ball. Fields has taken more sacks than any signal-caller in the league to this point (26) despite only starting six games, and he's also tied for fourth in interceptions (7). The 11th overall draft pick is 32nd in passing yards (991) and tied for 18th in touchdown passes (3) —  and he owns both the league's fourth-worst completion percentage (59.5) and passer rating (65.7). However, he has shown his athleticism, as he ranks fourth among QB's in rushing yards (243). 

Running the ball has been the Bears' bread and butter in 2021. They are fifth in the NFL in rushing (136.6 ypg), tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns (8), and sixth in yards per attempt (4.6). They've also done it with a running-back-by-committee approach over the last couple of weeks while David Montgomery was sidelined by a hyper-extended knee. But he returned to practice this week and is expected to be activated from injured reserve in time to play on Monday night. He'll team with rookie Khalil Herbert in the backfield with Damien Williams ruled out because of a knee injury. Montgomery's return could provide a spark to Chicago's offense.

2. NFC North vs. AFC North
As these two divisions match up against one another this season, both of these teams have had differing results against their inter-divisional counterparts. The Bears are 1-1 against the AFC North this year, as they defeated Cincinnati by a field goal in Week 2 but lost to Cleveland by 20 points the very next week. The Steelers, however, are 0-1 against the NFC North as they lost to Green Bay by 10 during Week 4. After this game, the Bears will wrap up this portion of their schedule when they host Baltimore after their bye week (Week 11). As for the Steelers, they still have to host Detroit next week, then conclude this portion of their schedule with a Thursday night trip to Minnesota to start Week 14.

3. Defense could be the story
For the most part, both of these teams are known for their effectiveness on this side of ball, but that hasn't always been the case this season. The Bears may be fourth in the league in sacks (21), but they're 14th in total defense (357.5 ypg), 11th in pass defense (232.5), 24th in run defense (125.0 ypg), and tied for 18th in scoring defense (24.4 ppg), with only have eight takeaways on their résumé. 

Outside linebacker Khalil Mack will miss a second straight game because of a nagging foot injury while safety Eddie Jackson (hamstring) is listed as doubtful and not expected to play. Linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring) is questionable although he hasn't practiced at all this week. One piece of good news for the defense is that Akiem Hicks didn't even appear on this week's injury report so he finally may be completely over his groin injury. Hicks is still rounding into form after missing some time, as he's only totaled five tackles and a sack in his last two games.

As for the Steelers, they're sixth in scoring defense (20.3 ppg) and tied for sixth in sacks (19), but they rank 11th in total defense (345.7 ypg) and are two spots behind the Bears in pass defense (239.7 ypg). They're also 12th in run defense (106.0 ypg) and only have six takeaways this season. Earlier this week, the team traded outside linebacker Melvin Ingram III to Kansas City in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick because of his discontent and lack of production (5 tackles, 1 sack). And defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has been bothered by an ankle injury (only has 1.5 sacks in his last three games).

Final Analysis

Believe it or not, the Bears lead this all-time series 19-7-1. They've also won each of their last three encounters with the Steelers by a margin of 80-54. But the Bears have too many glaring holes this time around, and the Steelers have more talent despite their occasional issues. On top of that, the Bears are just 1-3 on the road this year where they're being outscored 107-43. The Steelers have won each of their last two home games, and three of their last four games overall; they make it four straight wins on Monday.

Prediction: Steelers 28, Bears 14

— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.