This Sunday, our Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) face the Dallas Cowboys (8-4) at Heinz Field. These historical rivals haven’t faced one another since 2004. In that game, the Steelers defeated the Cowboys 24-20. Some may remember that that was the game in which Steeler Nation took over the Cowboys’ stadium on national TV. The TV announcers commented throughout the game about how there seemed to be as many Steelers fans on-hand as Cowboys’ fans, and that the Steelers fans were much louder than the Cowboys fans. That has nothing to do with this week’s game, but I love reminding Cowboys’ fans of that embarrassing moment.
To show just how long it’s been since these two teams met, Vinny Testaverde was the Cowboys’ quarterback the last time they played, and Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress. Wow, Big Ben to Plax. That seems like eons ago.
The two teams that will meet this time have much in common. Both teams feature young franchise quarterbacks who have a reputation for being gunslingers. Both teams feature talented running backs who are battling injuries. And both teams have a linebacker who is among the leagues’ leaders in sacks.
First, let’s take a look at the two quarterbacks. They are both mobile, and both tend to hold onto the ball in order to try to make a play. Sometimes that leads to good results, and sometimes……. That’s why both quarterbacks receive similar criticisms from their fans.
Tony Romo is clearly the more prolific passer of the two. He’s already passed for more yards this season than Big Ben despite having missed three games due to injury. While both quarterbacks are known for their mobility, Romo doesn’t seem to be as susceptible to the sack as Roethlisberger. Romo has only been sacked 8 times this year, compared to 33 sacks for Big Ben. Over the past two seasons, Romo has been sacked 32 times versus 80 sacks for Big Ben (Ouch!).
Tony Romo enters the game with the league’s top passer rating (103.2). However, Philip Rivers, Jason Campbell, and Matt Cassel all learned that a high passer rating is meaningless against the Steelers.
At the running back position, both teams will probably have to rely heavily on backup players. Steelers’ starter Willie Parker and Cowboys’ starter Marion Barber are both battling injuries. Both will probably see action on Sunday, but both will probably be less effective than they’d like. If “Fast Willie” falters, the Steelers will call on Mewelde Moore, who has been quite effective filling in for Parker. If Barber is unable to perform, the Cowboys will call on rookie Felix Jones Tashard Choice. Like Moore, Choice has done a good job filling in when called upon.
We all know that the playing surface at Heinz Field can be brutal in the month of December. The weather forecast is calling for snow, so both teams will probably have to rely heavily on their running games. If you participate in fantasy football, you may want to pick up Mewelde Moore and/or Tashard Choice for this weekend.
On defense, the Cowboys feature linebacker DeMarcus Ware, the NFL sack leader. Ware has 15 sacks so far, and will hope to add to his total against the Steelers’ suspect offensive line, and tackling dummy Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers will answer the Cowboys’ Ware with a sack specialist of their own, linebacker James Harrison. Harrison is 3rd in the league in sacks, and would love to close the gap between DeMarcus Ware and himself during Sunday’s game.
The Cowboys are one of the top 10 offenses in the NFL this season. They average 356.4 yards per game. Unfortunately, this week they will be facing the NFL’s #1 ranked defense. The Steelers have not allowed any opponent to gain 300 total yards this season. In fact, they’ve kept every opponent below their season yardage average. The Cowboys should be prepared to meet the same fate.
With potentially sloppy conditions, the Cowboy’s greatest weapon, WR Terrell Owens will probably be slowed down greatly. Moreover, Owens will be facing Steelers’ CB Ike Taylor. Despite having hands of stone, Ike Taylor is one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL. He thrives on shutting down big name receivers. Just ask Randy Moss.
Despite having talented weapons in Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Terrell Owens, and TE Jason Witten, the Cowboys’ offense is no match for the Steelers’ defense. With cold weather, a poor playing surface, and the potential for snow also working against them, the Cowboys will have little chance of beating the Steelers.
The one factor that could change that prediction is Ben Roethlisberger. If “Bad Ben” shows up, then the Cowboys may have a chance of winning the game. “Bad Ben” is Ben Roethlisberger’s evil alter ego. He is the one who throws unnecessary interceptions at costly points during the game. However, if “Good Ben” (the efficient game manager) shows up, then victory is almost assured.
With “Good Ben” running the show, I predict a Steelers’ victory by a score of 24-13.
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