10 Bears questions: On players returning, Bell’s style, old franchises

In the middle of a week filled with existential questions about the Bears’ direction, someone asked outside linebacker Pernell McPhee the biggest challenge they face Sunday.

‘‘Not to go 0-3,’’ he said.

While we point out that the last two Bears teams didn’t meet that challenge, here are 10 questions as they prepare for the Steelers:

1. Welcome back, everybody?

Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks is returning to New Orleans. (Getty Images)

Guard Kyle Long (ankle surgery), receiver Markus Wheaton (pinkie surgery) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (ankle) will make their season debuts after not appearing in the injury report Friday.

Guard Josh Sitton (ribs) is doubtful, though, which means the Bears are unlikely to have their starting offensive line together, even with Long’s return. Hroniss Grasu might line up at center, with Cody Whitehair playing guard opposite Long.

2. The Bears are envious?

The Steelers’ five offensive linemen have combined to miss only four games since the start of 2016, but right tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) will be out Sunday.

‘‘They really work well together,’’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ‘‘They do a good job of adjusting to different looks and getting their hat on the right guy.’’

Linebacker T.J. Watt (groin) is the Steelers’ other starter ruled out.

3. Does anyone run like Le’Veon Bell?

‘‘I’ve never seen a running back with that much patience,’’ Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks said.

The Steelers running back practically walks the ball to the line of scrimmage while he waits for holes to open up.

‘‘You can try to emulate it as much as you want . . . but you won’t feel it till you feel it,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘I’ve played him two times before. Just seeing how much he makes you stay in your gap and play your responsibility and not peek-a-boo into the next gap, he does a really good job with that.’’

Bell hasn’t looked quite like himself this season, averaging only 3.2 yards on 37 carries.

‘‘It’s a style to himself,’’ Fangio said. ‘‘I don’t think there is anybody else really like him. But he’s very, very effective.’’

4. Are these two of the great old teams?

‘‘I call them Cadillac franchises,’’ said Bears coach John Fox, who coached the Steelers’ secondary in 1989-91. ‘‘They kind of started the league. People weren’t millionaires and billionaires that bought them. They basically started from scratch.

‘‘In those days, as [late Steelers owner] Dan Rooney once told me, he said, ‘Believe it or not, we were giving these tickets away.’ That says a lot about those organizations. I’m very proud to have been involved with three of those, counting this one.’’

5. So are the Bears giving tickets away yet?

In a rare move, the Bears sent an email Friday advertising tickets for sale.

6. Wait, the Bears got good injury news?

Inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski’s pectoral injury isn’t as serious as that of Jerrell Freeman, the man he replaced in the lineup. Fox said he won’t require surgery. He might not have to go on injured reserve, either.

The Bears might promote John Timu from the practice squad for depth.

7. Wanna bet?

The Bears, who are 7½-point underdogs, are 5-1 against the spread in their last six home games.

8. So cancel the Super Bowl party?

Since 2007, nine of 83 teams that started a season 0-2 made the playoffs.

According to Bovada.lv, the loss to the Buccaneers sent the Bears from 250-1 odds to win the Super Bowl to 500-1. The only teams with longer odds are the 49ers and Jets.

9. Who was yapping at Prince Amukamara?

Everyone, it seemed, after Northern Illinois shocked Nebraska — his alma mater — last Saturday.

‘‘A lot of people were, but none of them went to Northern Illinois,’’ he said.

10. If it’s going to be so hot, why not wear white?

Teams have to declare their jersey colors months in advance. Warm-weather teams typically schedule white home jerseys early on.

‘‘I don’t know that I’d classify Chicago as that,’’ Fox said.

The Bears will wear blue.

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com


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