Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Mike Manning
Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers offense vs. Chicago Bears defense
- RB Le’Veon Bell vs. LB Danny Trevathan – Bell is off to a slow start to 2017 after missing the entire preseason due to his holdout. His biggest struggles seem to be in the receiving game, his 1.57 yards per route run in 2016 ranked eighth among running backs compared to 0.38 this season. Steelers’ quarterback’s passer rating has dropped from 103.0 in 2016 to 72.9 in 2017 when targeting Bell. The team will be looking to get Bell back to 2016 form against one of the best cover linebackers in Trevathan. The Bears’ linebacker has only allowed 0.58 yards per coverage snap, the 11th lowest in the league among linebackers.
- WR Antonio Brown vs. CB Kyle Fuller – Brown followed up his huge opening weekend in Cleveland with a more down to earth performance by his standards against the Vikings in Week 2. His yards per route run dropped from 4.92 in Week 1, second-highest in the league, to 1.68 in Week 2 when he was shadowed by Xavier Rhodes. If Fuller is going to keep Brown’s stat line closer to Week 2 than Week 1, he cannot allow a reception every 8.1 coverage snaps to Brown. Fuller also can’t miss tackles like he has this season, his three missed tackles in the passing game is tied for the second-most by a defensive back in 2017.
- T Chris Hubbard vs. DI Akiem Hicks – The Steelers’ will be without starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who has yet to allow a pressure this season, leading to the versatile Hubbard to take over. In a small sample size Hubbard has played average in pass protection with a 96.1 pass-blocking efficiency, but his run-blocking grade of 81.8 is third best among all Steelers offensive lineman. Run defense is the strongest part of Hicks’ game, with a run defense grade of 81.9. His 15 percent run stop percentage is also the third-highest among interior defenders in the NFL this season. A battle of strengths for an unexpectedly intriguing matchup in Week 3.
Coverage by: Lorin Cox
Match up: Chicago Bears offense vs. Pittsburgh Steelers defense
- WR Deonte Thompson vs. CB Joe Haden – The Bears’ wide receiver corps is thin on paper, but Thompson has found moderate success in his limited opportunities. Mike Glennon has a quarterback rating of 144.0 when targeting Thompson, the sixth-highest of any wide receiver in the NFL with at least seven targets. Five of his targets this season have traveled 10 or more yards in the air, the most of any Bears receiver. Haden has had a few struggles with a poor 43.1 overall grade this season since joining the Steelers, 85th out of 106 cornerbacks. His average depth of target this season is 16.9 yards, and he’s allowed 16.6 yards per reception in coverage, putting him 75th among cornerbacks.
- T Charles Leno vs. DI Cameron Heyward – Heyward is off to another strong season in 2017 as the eight-highest graded defensive lineman in the NFL at 85.4 overall. He leads all interior linemen with 13 pressures generated and eight total stops made this season, and he hasn’t been flagged or missed a tackle on 108 snaps this season. Leno will have his hands full with this matchup. He’s earned a 69.7 overall grade this season, but his run-block grade of 78.0 ranks 23rd among offensive tackles. In pass protection, he hasn’t allowed a sack, but he did allow two hits and six hurries in the first two games with a handful of other plays where he was beaten but the pressure didn’t get to the quarterback.
- T Bobby Massie vs. EDGE Bud Dupree – Massie had a decent start to the season in Week 1 before really struggling last week when he allowed one sack, one hit and three hurries, helping to bring is overall grade for the season down to a poor 47.9. He could have trouble with another speed rusher this week in Dupree. The former first-round pick made his season debut last week and generated six pressures on 30 pass-rush snaps, giving him a pass-rushing productivity (15.8) that ranks fourth among 3-4 outside linebackers.