Bears head coach Marc Trestman advertised Sunday night's game at Pittsburgh as an opportunity to learn about his team.
This is ironic because Trestman is the professorial type who usually is dispensing knowledge. But smart guys become smart by continuing to learn, and Trestman always is looking for clues about his team, his opponent and football.
Before Trestman could learn anything about the Bears, he learned that there's a reason Pittsburgh lost its first two games of the season. The Steelers are trying to find a running game and trying to find themselves on defense … two areas of the game that they could depend on for the past couple of decades.
Yet as inferior as the Steelers have become, they still have the hearts and minds of champions and managed to make the Bears work for every ounce of their 40-23 victory and 3-0 record.
"We tried to just keep sawing wood" is the way Trestman put it.
Like all teams that have been perennially good for a long time in any sport, the Steelers know how to stay in games they shouldn't be in and at various times scared the cleats off the Bears on this night.
The lesson should be helpful for the Bears. For the past decade they have been chasing the Steelers, trying to emulate their style of play and striving to win a couple of Super Bowls like they did.
So it wouldn't be any small accomplishment if the Bears finally became truly better than the Steelers. Personnel-wise, they are now; the championship mindset is what remains a work in progress.
Even as the Steelers look for answers to their questions, any head coach like Trestman can learn quite a bit about his team by playing at Pittsburgh.
Perhaps most important is that Trestman learned the Bears' health isn't a given after defensive tackle Henry Melton left with a knee injury.
Beyond that, Trestman learned that after 2 victories in Soldier Field, the Bears could win a road game in a hostile environment.
Trestman also learned that the Bears' retooled linebacker corps of holdover Lance Briggs and newcomers D.J. Williams and James Anderson can make plays.
However, Trestman learned the Bears' pass rush advanced only from struggling to erratic, though it did manage to put Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under enough pressure to keep him from maintaining a rhythm.
Oh, and Trestman has to study why the Bears can look so solid for a while and then so shaky for a while.
Like, Trestman has to figure out why the Bears' defense forced a couple of turnovers that led to scores and then allowed Roethlisberger to generate long scoring drives.
The good news is that every time the Pittsburgh challenged, the Bears forced another turnover and they had a 5-0 edge in that category in the game.
"You can't turn the ball over like that," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
Yet Trestman was compelled to point out, "We were plus-5 (in turnovers) and in the fourth quarter still were fighting for the win."
On offense, the Bears dominated the first quarter for a 17-0 lead and looked like they would win this game 68-0. OK, maybe not that big, but they had edges of 9-2 in first downs, 124-29 in total yards and 10:31-4:29 in time of possession.
Then the Bears' only score of the second quarter came on safety Major Wright's 38-yard interception return.
It was that kind of game: Herky-jerky, fits and starts, most of them initiated by the Bears because in this game they were destined to dictate what happened for better or worse.
"We're still in the evolutionary process of trying to find out who we are," Trestman said.
Consider it the ongoing education of Marc Trestman.