Cutler will have to be on alert

Steelers' zone pressures will force Bears QB to make quick reads

Jay Cutler and the Bears offense should expect multiple fronts and creative blitz schemes from Dick LeBeau's Steelers defense. It's a unit that will disguise and roll coverage while using zone pressures to attack the quarterback.

As shown here, the Bears have their Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) on the field in a Doubles Slot alignment versus the Steelers dime package (six defensive backs) sending closed side zone pressure. Cutler has to identify the blitz and go through his progressions quickly on the smash-divide concept to get the ball out.

Steelers pressure scheme

The Steelers are looking to create some confusion in the Bears protection scheme by attacking rookie offensive linemen Jordan Mills and Kyle Long. The nickel back (N) stems to a blitz alignment and rushes off the edge with Will Backer LaMarr Woodley (W) occupying right guard Long. This allows strong safety Troy Polamalu (SS) to scrape to the C gap on his rush path. If right tackle Mills steps down with Woodley, the Steelers will have a possible two-on-one against Matt Forte (R) in protection.

Blitz coverage

In this scheme, the Steelers are using a "gold" technique that plays out like Cover-2. Free safety Ryan Clark (FS) and open side cornerback Ike Taylor (RC) drop to the deep halves with two flat defenders (S and LC) underneath reading the quarterback. Inside, the dime (D) matches to No. 2 (H) with the Mike Backer carrying No. 3 (Y) as vertical hook defenders (match/trail with deep half help over the top) versus a 3-by-1 formation.

Bears smash-divide concept

Marc Trestman's offenses can run the smash-divide concept out of a variety of personnel groupings and alignments. In this scheme, Martellus Bennett (Y) works up the field on the seam route with Brandon Marshall (H) stemming to the 7 (corner) route and Alshon Jeffery (Z) running the smash (or hitch). To the open side, Earl Bennett (X) runs the shallow drive route (underneath crosser) to target the middle of the field.

Cutler's reads

With no vertical release from Jeffery, the closed side corner (LC) will sink and play a Cover-2 technique (sink at a 45-degree angle, cushion the 7 route, break on the flat). If he sits short, Cutler can target Marshall on the 7 in front of free safety Clark. If the corner gets too much depth in his drop (or if Cutler has to throw hot versus the pressure), the quarterback can target Jeffery on the smash. To the open side, Cutler can look up Earl Bennett on the drive route as his third read. With Taylor topping his coverage, Bennett can sit this route down between the hash marks to give Cutler an inside target.

Finding Polamalu

The strong safety will align all over the field in the Steelers game plan. Polamalu will play the curl-flat as a Cover-3 defender; drop to the deep half in 2-Man and blitz both inside and off the edge in LeBeau's scheme. Cutler has to identify Polamalu in passing situations and might often have to check to his hot reads if the Steelers can get to the quarterback in their nickel and dime sub-packages. This defense hasn't produced many impact plays through the first two weeks of the season, but this is still a tough matchup for the Bears because of the opportunities LeBeau's scheme presents to create confusion with zone pressure.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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