Week 9 will conclude with an appetizing Monday night showdown between the surging Pittsburgh Steelers and the exciting Chicago Bears. Rookie signal-caller Justin Fields will look to build upon last week's astounding performance that saw him accumulate 103 rushing yards on just 10 rushing attempts. Fields will face a stiff test in a Pittsburgh defense that creates mismatches in abundance up front.
Two of the league's most storied franchises will collide. The outcome will have a stark impact on the current playoff picture. Here are three player-versus-player matchups we’re particularly excited to monitor.
DIONTAE JOHNSON VS. JAYLON JOHNSON
Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai has been inconsistent with his usage of Johnson this season, opting to utilize him to shadow an opponent's receiver on just certain occasions. Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson seems worthy of receiving such treatment and special attention. The former third-round selection has been in impressive form this season and leads all Steelers receivers in receptions (40), yards (474), and touchdowns (3).
The former Toledo standout should encounter an impressive cornerback in Jaylon Johnson on a relatively snap-by-snap basis. The sophomore cornerback is enjoying a breakout season, and is currently looking like a steal given that he was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. This has the potential to be one heck of a battle between two rising stars at their respective positions.
T.J. WATT VS. LARRY BOROM
This matchup appears to be incredibly lopsided. The Steelers typically employ Watt over the opposition's right tackle. On Monday, that will be Chicago's rookie fifth-round pick Larry Borom. Yikes. To make matters worse, Bears head coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor have rarely altered their scheme to provide Borom with the help he so desperately needs.
Nagy and Lazor may want to rethink that strategy heading into Monday night. Watt continues to serve as a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks and is already up to 8.5 sacks on the year. Based on Watt's current form and Borom's raw skill set and stark inexperience, the outcome of this battle is heavily trending in one direction and one direction only.
JUSTIN FIELDS VS DC KEITH BUTLER
Breaking away from our usual format, the Steelers have historically been an incredibly difficult defense for rookie signal-callers to play against. Fields is an electric talent that may have experienced his breakthrough in last week's impressive performance against the San Francisco 49ers, and how he performs on Monday night will tell us a ton about his current form.
Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler will undoubtedly do all he can to disguise Pittsburgh's coverage and secondary looks in hopes of confusing Fields and forcing him into mistakes. Pittsburgh's defense has been one of the stingiest in the league, allowing their opponents to score just 20.3 points per contest. Fields will have his work cut out for him, and could take a large step forward with an impressive showing.
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