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Try as they might, it just didn't feel like an NFL game.
The constant throbbing of rock music pumped through sideline speakers between each play made it sound more like the NBA.
The cheerleaders, on loan from the World League of American League, looked as if they had taken a wrong turn at the local cabaret.
And the Bears did their part in their exhibition opener by appearing anything but ready for the NFL season with a 30-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers before 30,269 at Croke Park.
"Obviously we have a lot of work to do and we need training camp," said Bears coach Dave Wannstedt after spending six days with his team in Ireland. "Would you call this week training camp? We all know this was not training camp. We need to work, and we need to get better, and we need to do it in a hurry, so we're going to be pressing as coaches and pressing as players. The quicker we can get back to Platteville and get into it, the better."
New Bears quarterback Rick Mirer completed four of his seven pass attempts in 15 plays through the better part of the first two quarters. Trouble was, they went for just 16 yards as the Bears' first team failed to cross midfield.
In fact, backup quarterback Erik Kramer, playing in his first game since sustaining a near career-ending neck injury in the fourth game last season, accomplished more in his first series--a six-play, 42-yard drive, including a 35-yard pass to receiver Haywood Jeffires on his second play--than the Bears' starters did in their four possessions.
The drive resulted in a 47-yard field goal by Jeff Jaeger and gave the Bears their only points of the half.
Kramer finished with 56 yards on 3-of-4 passing.
"People that want to be critical can be critical, but there are definitely things that are progressing," Mirer said. "I didn't expect to tear this thing up.
"In 15 plays, you only get so many shots. I never really pushed the ball down the field. We just wanted to get first downs, and we had trouble doing that."
The first team gained 34 yards total with the backfield of Rashaan Salaam and Raymont Harris combining for just 18 yards on five carries. The offense further stalled on dropped passes and penalties.
"Even though it's the preseason you don't want to start bad habits, and that's one bad habit we've already started," said Bears tight end Keith Jennings.
One of the bright spots for the Bears was the 46-yard third-quarter touchdown run by rookie running back Darnell Autry. The former Northwestern star bounced off a handful of Steelers at the line of scrimmage before scampering down the right sideline for the score, bringing the Bears to within 16-10 with a little more than five minutes left in the quarter.
Rookie tight end Tremayne Allen caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Steve Stenstrom with less than 2 1/2 minutes left in the game.
Defensively, John Thierry, starting for the first time at left end in place of the departed Al Fontenot, was impressive in reaching Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart on several occasions. But the Bears came away with just one sack, by second-string right end Carl Reeves.
The Steelers outgained the Bears 445 yards to 252, including 173 rushing yards. "I was disappointed in our run defense with all the groups," said Wannstedt. "We need to get better there. We missed a couple tackles early."
Second-year cornerback Walt Harris was the most conspicuously error-prone. He was victimized several times in the first two Steelers scoring drives--first by a 44-yard pass from Stewart to Charles Johnson that gave Pittsburgh the ball on the Bears' 3-yard-line. Jerome Bettis ran it in on the next play.
Two missed tackles by Harris, both on third down, one of which led to a 21-yard completion to Yancey Thigpen, put Pittsburgh at midfield en route to a 43-yard field goal by Chris Jacke, who had three field goals.
The Bears return Monday afternoon to Platteville, where they will have just four days to prepare for a game at Buffalo Saturday.
"It will be good to get back in a comfortable environment, even if it is Platteville," said Raymont Harris.