Week 15: Pittsburgh Steelers At Dallas Cowboys
- QuarterbackThe Steelers have struggled with their consistency in recent weeks, losing to the Browns and Chargers while beating the Ravens with an undermanned team. Look for Ben Roethlisberger to be much closer to top form against the Cowboys after getting back in the lineup last week vs. San Diego. His ability to make plays after getting hit could be the difference in this game.Tony Romo responded to heavy pressure in Week 14 vs. the Bengals when he rallied the Cowboys from a 9-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Romo is playing much better football and he is always going to give his teammates a catchable ball to go after. He has completed 66.3 percent of his passes and he has thrown for 3,928 yards this season.
- OffenseThe Steelers are going to use a power running game to augment Roethlisberger’s passing attack. While Rashard Mendenhall is buried deep in Mike Tomlin’s doghouse – he has been a healthy scratch two weeks in a row – Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman attack opposing tacklers and pick up key yards. Mike Wallace is an explosive, big-play receiver and tight end Heath Miller will catch anything he can touch.Dez Bryant had really picked it up in recent weeks after a difficult first half of the season, but he may not be able to play this week after suffering a broken finger vs. the Bengals. If he can’t play, the Cowboys will have a problem. Running back DeMarco Murray has not played a lot this season due to injuries, but his presence makes the Cowboys more difficult to defend.
- DefenseThe Steelers have the top-ranked defense in the league and they are capable of shutting down explosive offensive teams. Inside linebacker Larry Foote is one of the best players on this stellar unit. He leads the team with 91 tackles and he also has four sacks. Fellow linebacker Lawrence Timmons is also a solid tackler who can go sideline-to-sideline to make plays.The Cowboys have plenty of speed on defense and Roethlisberger will have a problem if the Pittsburgh offensive line can’t slow down outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. He is the team leader with 11.0 sacks and he has also forced four fumbles. Anthony Spencer has 8.5 sacks and a team-high 76 tackles along with three passes defensed.
- Special TeamsThe Steelers have had an inconsistent year on special teams. They have done a solid job on kickoff returns, but they have been hurt badly by their punt coverage teams. Tomlin has to be thrilled with the performance of placekicker Shaun Suisham, who has made 25-of-26 FG attempts and has not missed a kick of less than 50 yards.The Cowboys have held their own on kickoff and punt returns, but they have gotten stellar work from placekicker Dan Bailey, who has made 25-of-27 field goal attempts. Bailey has made 2-of-4 FG attempts from 50 yards and beyond.
The Steelers have played up or down to their competition throughout the season. They had a miserable effort against the soiled Chargers in Week 14, and there’s every reason to think they will bounce back against the Cowboys. Romo will be under pressure against the top-ranked Steelers’ defense.