One staple of the Bears’ defensive successes over much of the last decade has been the ability of cornerback Charles Tillman to match up, if necessary, with the game’s best wide receivers, going back to Tillman’s rookie battles with Randy Moss.
Now the Bears move past the Pittsburgh Steelers and on to the Detroit Lions and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, with Tillman coming off minor injury issues that suddenly can become major when the opponent is Megatron.
Tillman, who missed most of practice last week with knee soreness from the Minnesota game, was pulled from the Pittsburgh game with tightness in his groin. The team said that he was cleared to return to play but remained sidelined in favor of Zackary Bowman.
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Tillman said in Pittsburgh that the groin problem may have traced to his knee soreness. In any case, Tillman is not expected to practice on Wednesday.
“His knee held up fine,” coach Marc Trestman said. “Probably a little compensation there – I’m not a trainer, I’m not a doctor, so I want to be very careful with my words – probably just a little bit of another push and the body compensating for the knee….
“I know that he does everything he can when he’s healthy to stay healthy, and I know he’s going to do everything he can to get his body the way it needs to be to be at 100 percent. But like I said, we’re optimistic he’ll be back and ready to go.”
The Bears secondary needs Tillman. Even with him, Cincinnati’s A.J Green netted 169 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown burned the Bears for 196 yards and two scores, including one for 21 yards at Tillman’s expense.
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In 11 games vs. the Bears, Johnson has caught 53 passes and scored four touchdowns. He has not destroyed the Bears the way he has some opponents, and the Lions are 2-9 against the Bears with him.
But that was with a mostly healthy Charles Tillman.