Monday Night Football Week 9 Preview and Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears

Ben Gretch is back previewing and predicting Week 9's Monday Night Football matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears.
Ben Gretch
Sun, November 7, 7:18 AM EST

Monday Night Football Week 9 Preview and Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears Start Time, Where To Watch, and Odds

Date: Monday, November 8, 2021

Game Time: 8:15 pm ET

Where to Watch: ESPN and ESPN2 (with Peyton and Eli)

  • Key Stat: Per Football Outsiders, no team has allowed a higher Adjusted Sack Rate than Chicago’s 12.5%. Per ESPN, the Steelers’ Pass Rush Win Rate of 48% ranks sixth in the NFL. 

Click Here For Steelers vs. Bears Odds

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears Preview

Monday Night Football brings us an absurd over/under south of 40 points at most books. As always, my approach with a line like this is to both understand that it wouldn’t be this extreme without legitimate reasons but also recognize there are enough unknowns in football that we should be looking for ways to play the other side.

Both of these teams have struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball, and both enter Week 9 in the bottom five in total points scored this season. Pittsburgh’s issues have revolved around Ben Roethlisberger looking like a shell of his former self, while Chicago’s are due to a rookie quarterback playing behind perhaps the worst pass-blocking offensive line in the league. Chicago, in fact, ranks last in Adjusted Sack Rate at Football-Outsiders.

Justin Fields has done some things right in his rookie season, but he’s also looked downright terrible quite often. To my eye, his accuracy has been very strong and brings a mobility that few signal-callers in the league can match, though his poor line and to-date poor feel in the pocket has limited how frequently that’s translated to effective scrambles. But there were signs of life last week against the 49ers, as the Bears protected Fields better, and he made some great plays with his feet, including a dazzling 22-yard touchdown run, en route to a 103-yard rushing day.

But Fields has looked his worst against some fearsome pass rushes, with both the Browns and Buccaneers, in particular, creating havoc in the pocket and Fields looking completely helpless. Chicago scored a total of nine points across those two games, and Pittsburgh presents a similar challenge with T.J. Watt on the outside and Cameron Heyward on the interior as the key names to watch.

And yet, while development has come slow for Fields, it’s important to recognize young players do progress, and trends can change. Fields played his best game of the season last week, showing far more comfort in the pocket and building more of a rhythm within the offense than he had to date. He’s likely to get David Montgomery back to join rookie Khalil Herbert, who was productive in the backfield for Chicago with Montgomery out. Darnell Mooney is playing well outside while the tight ends have come on, and the Bears are still waiting to get more out of Allen Robinson. While it’s a low bar to clear, you can see the shape of an offense that could be better into the second half of the regular season than they have been in the first.

One thing Fields is doing well is pushing the ball downfield — his 8.9 average intended air yards rank fifth among all qualified passers per NFL’s NextGen Stats. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Roethlisberger, whose 6.9 average intended air yards rank 30th of the 35 qualifiers. That’s been a big reason the Steelers have their own limitations on offense, but they’ll face off with a Bears defense that will play without star pass rusher Khalil Mack. Despite their offensive woes and a strong defense, five of their seven games this season have hit at least 39 points.

The key is Chicago’s side. They’ve played several very low-scoring games, and those have come in large part due to an extremely heavy run lean and, at times, terrible offense overall. But after last week’s performance, and given the bar is very low here, I’m willing to bite. So I like the over in a game that is unlikely to be a shootout but really only needs to give us flashes of offensive competence.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears Pick

Ben Gretch
@YardsPerGretch
Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.
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