When the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers meet on Sunday night at Heinz Field, their matchup will represent two of the sports most legendary franchises doing battle for only the 13th time since the 1967 AFL-NFL merger.
It may be somewhat surprising that the two teams have played so few games against each other over that span, considering that the Steelers were the first team to join the AFL in 1933 and the Bears are one of the NFL's charter franchises. The two teams also are owned by arugably two of the three most famous families in the league, with the Halas family (and patriarch George Halas) and the Rooney family (patriarch Art Rooney) still owning both clubs (the Hunt family, owners of the Kansas City Chiefs, is the other).
In the previous 12 games, the two teams have each won six times, with the Steelers taking three of the last four matchups in the series. The Bears won the last game in the series in 2009, beating the Steelers by a 17-14 margin at Soldier Field thanks to a 44-yard field goal by Robbie Gould with only 15 seconds remaining in the game.
In that contest, the Bears benefited from touchdown catches by Kellen Davis (no, that is not a typo) and Johnny Knox, and had zero turnovers while the Steelers gave the ball away twice, including on a fumble with only nine seconds left in the game that sealed it for the Bears.
Even still, the final score did reflect how close the game was overall. The Steelers had a narrow edge in the yards gained department, picking up 305 yards as compared to 275 for the Bears. Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson combined for only 44 yards on the ground in the game, but Knox's six catches helped to overcome the deficiencies in that area.
The 2009 game was the only one that Cutler has played against the Steelers during his time with the Bears, and Roethlisberger is 1-1 against Chicago in his career, winning his first start against them in 2005.
The series between the two teams hasn't always been particularly close. In fact, the Steelers won back-to-back games against the Bears in 1975 and 1980 by margins of 34-3 and 38-3, with both games taking place in the Steel City. The Bears did perhaps incur the Steelers' wrath with their 38-7 manhandling of the Steelers during the team's first post-merger matchup in 1967.
Both teams have always predicated their gameplans on a strong defensive attack, with the Steel Curtain winning the Steelers four Super Bowls in the 1970's and the Bears' vaunted defense under guru Buddy Ryan helping Chicago to a dominant 1985 season that culminated in a runaway triumph in Super Bowl XX in New Orleans.
Needless to say, there will be plenty of history surrounding the game on Sunday night, and even though the shared history between the two clubs is limited, it's still neat to realize how long these two teams have been doing battle.