(Reuters) - The Chicago Bears pulled away in the final quarter to secure a 40-23 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday to maintain their unbeaten opening to the new campaign and send the Steelers to their first 0-3 start since 2000.
The Bears defense forced five Pittsburgh turnovers and scored two touchdowns in a wild game that lifted them to 3-0.
“The defense did a great job of keeping us in it and giving us an opportunity,” Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler told reporters after throwing for 159 yards and one score.
Cutler provided a signature play in the final quarter when he ran over a Pittsburgh defender to get a first down en route to a drive that put the Bears a decisive 11 points ahead.
“(The team) was all yelling for me to get down when I got back to the huddle. We didn’t play well in the second half, I just wanted to make sure I picked it up.”
Chicago raced out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and led 24-3 in the second before Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected on a 33-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown to spark a comeback.
Roethlisberger finished with 406 yards passing while Brown had 196 yards receiving and two scores.
Brown also had a one-handed, 21-yard touchdown grab in the third and after Shaun Suisham kicked his third field goal of the game, Pittsburgh had pulled to within 27-23 early in the fourth.
But the Bears sealed it when Earl Bennett made an acrobatic 17-yard catch along the sideline to put the visitors 34-23 ahead and Julius Peppers returned a fumble 42 yards for the final score of the game.
Chicago’s Major Wright helped lead the opportunistic defense with a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown, along with a forced fumble.
“It’s been great, we’re playing Bears defense,” Wright said.
“Takeaways... that’s what we practice.”
Despite scoring more points than they had in their first two games combined, the Steelers gave the ball away far too much.
Roethlisberger lost two fumbles and threw a pair of interceptions.
“We have to take better care of the football,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin lamented. “I‘m not going to characterise it in any way other than that.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford/John O'Brien