Found December 15, 2012 on
SteelBlitz Steelers Blog:
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been the model of inconsistency during the 2012 season, but they still hold their own destiny in terms of making the playoffs. In fact, there is still a small chance that they could win the AFC North division title. However, after an embarrassing loss to the San Diego Chargers, in which the Steelers were dominated at home, things have gotten more desperate in Pittsburgh. With the Cincinnati Bengals winning on Thursday Night Football against the Eagles the Steelers now must win at least two game including next week’s match-up with the Bengals.
The Dallas Cowboys (7-6) head into this weeks game with the same record as the Steelers (7-6) and are trying to win a playoff spot in the more competitive NFC. Unlike the Steelers, who have lost three of their last four, the Cowboys are playing well and are winners of four of their past five games. In those four wins the Cowboys have only turned the ball over twice. In fact, in their seven wins Tony Romo has thrown three interceptions, but in their six losses Romo has thrown 13 interceptions.
Both of these teams have struggled to hang onto the ball in 2012 which could mean an ugly game on Sunday. Dallas holds a -10 turnover ratio this season compared to a -13 for the Steelers.
On Sunday both teams will be battling through injuries. Pittsburgh will be without two of their top corners if Cortez Allen (groin) can’t play and Ike Taylor (ankle) not expected back for a few weeks. They will finally see first round guard David DeCastro, but are still down to their third right tackle and could be without a few other players due to the flu bug hitting the team this week. Dallas has some major injuries of their own this week. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is out with a groin injury and Morris Claiborne (concussion), Dez Bryant (finger), and DeMarcus Ware (elbow) are all questionable to play.
Keys to the game:
1.) Find a Way to Stop the Pass – Ike Taylor will be out Sunday and Cortez Allen may be joining him on the sideline this week. If both players can’t play the Steelers will need their young guys to step up. Behind Keenan Lewis the Steelers will have Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke at corner Sunday. Victorian was called up from the practice squad last week and Van Dyke hasn’t seen much playing time at all after coming over from the Raiders early this season. Rob Golden could also see some time at corner if need be. Golden is an undrafted free agent out of Arizona and played corner and safety in college. Romo has been playing well as of late and he will be attacking the Steelers’ young corners this week. They will need to shut down the pass especially on third down; something they were unable to do last week against the Chargers.
2.) Attack Ratliff’s Hole – Jay Ratliff will not be on the field Sunday and he is a big part of the Cowboys defense. His presence in the middle is similar to what Casey Hampton does for the Steelers. With him out of the lineup the Steelers will need to attack the middle of the Cowboys defense with the running game. Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and David DeCastro are all solid run blockers and will be starting together on the interior of the Steelers line for the first time. If they can dominate the interior of the Cowboy defense they may be able to have a good day in the run game.
3.) Keep Wallace Focused – After being booed in the second quarter of last weeks loss Mike Wallace came on strong. He was booed after dropping a pass that fell to the ground after hitting his finger tips. After the drop, however, Wallace was targeted seven more times. Of those seven targets Wallace pulled down six receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Hopefully, those boos woke Wallace up and he can be back to being a dominating target in the passing game. If he can do that Roethlisberger will have a go to go that can help get the offense going. Also, with Antonio Brown battling the flu the Steelers will need a big game out of Wallace.
4.) Force Romo into Making Mistakes – Tony Romo has had turnover problems in his career and in the Cowboys six losses this season. He can be forced to make bad throws when he is under pressure and is prone to losing fumbles when he is hit in the pocket. LaMarr Woodley is on track to return Sunday and the Steelers need big games from him and James Harrison. If they can put pressure on Romo early and often they can force him into turning the ball over and making mistakes. And we all know that when Romo is making mistakes it is hard for him to stop and hard for the Cowboys to win.
5.) Win the Special Teams Battle – When teams are struggling to get back on track special teams play can make a big difference in wins and losses. The Steelers need to win the special teams battle and hold the edge in field position. Last week the Steelers struggled to get the advantage in field position and it was one of the reasons they struggled to get out of an early hole. Chris Rainey and Antonio Brown (if he plays and returns kicks) will need to make plays in the punt and kickoff return game to make things easier on the offense to score points. The field position battle could come into play once again this week and if the Steelers can win that battle it could go a long way towards them winning the game.
This could be a huge win for the Steelers. If they can get a dominating win on the road it could go a long way to giving them the momentum they need to win out and get a playoff spot. With injuries at corner back Pittsburgh will have a tough task against the Cowboys receivers including Dez Bryant (if he plays with a broken finger). However, with the Cowboys defense also susceptible to the pass this game could turn into a shoot out or a blow out depending on who gets going on offense.
Pittsburgh should come into this game angry after being embarrassed by the Chargers at home last week. The veterans on the team won’t let the young players lose this game and will make sure that everyone is focused and ready to play this week. The Steelers should be able to get to Tony Romo and if they can get the running game going they will be able to have a better showing on offense.
That being said they are still playing on the road with a depleted secondary so things won’t be easy. I’ll take the Steelers in a close game 24-21.
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