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Kevin Gorman's five thoughts on Steelers' OT loss to Bears

Kevin Gorman
| Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, 4:57 p.m.
Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears carries the football past  Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second quarter at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago.
Getty Images
Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears carries the football past Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second quarter at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago.

1. Mike Tomlin told CBS two hours before the Steelers-Bears game that the Steelers would remain in the locker room during the national anthem as players around the NFL responsed to a tirade of tweets by President Trump over the weekend criticizing the silent protests for “disrespecting” the flag.

“You know, these are very divisive times for our country, and for us as a football team, it's about us remaining solid,” Tomlin said. “We're not going to be divided by anything said by anyone.”

Yet during the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” Tomlin stood on the sideline along with assistant coaches Todd Haley, Mike Munchak and James Saxon while left tackle Alejandro Villanueva — a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan — stood at the end of the tunnel with his hand on his heart.

Some show of solidarity by the Steelers.

2. My Sunday column was about how the Steelers should be concerned by the shuffling on the offensive line

with Chris Hubbard starting at right tackle in place of Marcus Gilbert (hamstring). That was compounded when left guard Ramon Foster injured his left hand and had to be replaced by B.J. Finney.

In the first half, cornerback Bryce Callahan sacked Ben Roethlisberger for a 12-yard loss and a forced fumble, and the Bears defense held Le'Veon Bell to 22 yards rushing on six carries. The Bears sacked Roethlisberger three times for minus-23 yards — the Steelers had allowed only three sacks for minus-18 through the first two games — and held Bell to 61 rushing yards on 15 carries.

3. A pair of special-teams gaffes proved costly for the Steelers — and, to a lesser degree, the Bears.

Early in the first quarter, Eli Rogers muffed a punt, and Bears cornerback Sherrick McManis recovered at the 29. Six plays later, the Bears scored on Jordan Howard's 3-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

After McManis blocked Chris Boswell's 35-yard field goal attempt with 6 seconds left in the first half, Bears cornerback Marcus Cooper Jr. appeared to return it for a touchdown. Cooper, however, stopped just short of the goal line, where he was tackled by Steelers tight end Vance McDonald, who knocked the ball loose. Punter Jordan Berry and McManis lunged for the ball, with Berry slapping it out of the end zone.

After a review, the Bears got an untimed play from inside the 1 but drew a false start penalty on left tackle Charles Leno Jr. They settled for a 24-yard field goal by Connor Barth for a 17-7 halftime lead.

If not for the two mistakes, the Bears could have been leading, 21-7.

4. Cooper compounded his woes with a pass interference penalty while covering Antonio Brown on a pass into the end zone. One play later, Bell scored on a1-yard run to cut Chicago's lead to 17-14 with 6 minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter.

But after a J.J. Wilcox interception gave the Steelers the ball at the Bears' 21, Cooper responded with a big breakup on a third-and-3 pass intended for Martavis Bryant at the goal line. It forced the Steelers to settle for a 32-yard Boswell field goal instead of a touchdown and tie the game at 17-17 instead of taking the lead.

5. The Steelers got a big break on the first play of overtime when Tarik Cohen broke a 74-yard touchdown run only to be ruled out at the Pittsburgh 37. Four Steelers defenders missed tackles on Cohen: safeties Wilcox and Mike Mitchell, linebacker Vince Williams and cornerback Artie Burns, who was crossed over when Cohen cut back at the 5.

Instead of taking advantage, the Steelers watched Jordan Howard go for an 18-yard gain followed by a 19-yard scoring run as the Bears clinched their first victory of the season, 23-17, in overtime.

The Steelers had only themselves to blame.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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