- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Undefeated versus winless means nothing for Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler as he prepares to lead his 2-0 team into Heinz Field on Sunday to face the 0-2 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Regardless of the record, Cutler considers Pittsburgh to be Chicago’s most significant test to date.
“We’re on the road, first road game. The noise is going to be a problem for us offensively,” Cutler said. “Just the travel; you know we have some young guys on offense. Just see how the communication goes with the noise, keeping our poise out there. It will be a good test for us. It’s [been] only two games.”
The Bears go into Pittsburgh with their third 2-0 start in the last 10 years, and a victory would make the club 3-0 for just the third time in the last 20 years. The Steelers, meanwhile, have won only one of their last five games at Heinz Field, coming off a seven-game home winning streak. What’s more, Pittsburgh is 0-2 for the first time since 2002, marking the first time the Steelers have been two games under .500 during Mike Tomlin’s tenure (since 2007).
If the Steelers fall to 0-3, it will mark just the second time that’s happened in the last 25 years.
“We’re excited about going,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “It’s a great environment for football like ours. We’ll find out more about ourselves. We’ve got to play in the noise. We’ve got to play in an environment that there’s going to be a great sense of urgency on both teams. It’ll be exciting. I think it will help measure us a little bit more.”
Cutler believes this year’s team is better equipped to handle the hostile environment. Even with rookies starting on the right side of the line in guard Kyle Long and tackle Jordan Mills, the Bears haven’t yet committed any pre-snap penalties such as false starts on offense.
A raucous crowd might change that, but Cutler doesn’t expect perfection.
“I feel better about the plan. So far, I feel really good about our third-down plan protection-wise,” Cutler said. “They show a lot of different fronts. They show a lot of different blitzes and dogs. We’ve got to be prepared for that. [Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer] and [Trestman] and those guys have done a great job of getting us ready for the different looks we’re going to see. We won’t be perfect out there. We’re going to see some stuff that maybe we mess up, but we just have to work through it, work through the crowd noise, and get to the second half in a good place for us to win the game.
The Bears practiced inside the Walter Payton Center on Thursday and piped in crowd noise from a public address system throughout the entire workout session in preparation for what they’ll face in Pittsburgh.
“Different schemes, but you have guys who’ve been in the same system for 10 years, made a few runs,” said Marshall, who grew up in Pittsburgh a fan of the Steelers. “So whenever you have guys who really know the system, it just makes it so much harder on opposing offense because they’re really the pitcher sometimes and not the batter. So as an offense, my philosophy is you always want to control the game. But this is going to be an all-day sucker.”
Will the Bears effectively handle this upcoming bout of adversity? Cutler expects them to.
The quarterback said the offense is now in a much better place than it was at this time last year.
“Yeah, we are, I think we’re in a good spot right now. I think it goes back to the protection, our ability to protect right now opens up a lot of holes out there, not only for [Marshall], but for us to space the ball around,” Cutler said. “I don’t think defenses can say ‘Hey, just [cover] him for two seconds, just put two guys on [Marshall] for two seconds and we’ll get to the passer.’ They’ve got to protect the whole field and we’re getting three or four seconds at a time to scan things over and find an open guy.”