Before reading this week’s key match-ups, please read my Steelers-Cowboys Preview. Also, you may want to read our reports on the Steelers and Cowboys historical rivalry by clicking here.
Each week I look at the key match-ups that will most likely impact the outcome of the game. Here are this week’s key match-ups.
Steelers’ linebackers James Harrison vs. Cowboys LT Flozell Adams
Last week, James Harrison faced off against the Patriots’ Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light. After 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and more hurries than Matt Cassel cares to remember, Harrison proved that he can more than hold his own against a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle.
This week, Silverback gets to give a repeat performance against another Pro Bowl left tackle. This time, it’s the Cowboys’ Flozell Adams. Adams presents a different challenge than Light. Light was a 6’4″ 305 lb. left tackle. He combines strength with reasonable speed. Adams, on the other hand, is more of a behemoth. He’s 6’7″ and 340 lbs. Think Orlando Pace, only heavier. In fact, a better comparison is the Steelers’ own Max Starks. Starks is 6’8″ and 345 lbs.
Since Adams dwarfs Harrison by 7 inches and 100 lbs., it is not likely that Harrison is going to be able to beat him by simply bull rushing him. Fortunately, Harrison has two key advantages that should serve him well. When blocking, leverage is everything, and Harrison’s shorter stature will actually provide him with a leverage advantage over Adams. More importantly, Harrison is significantly faster than Adams. In this situation, Harrison’s speed advantage is more important than Adams’ size advantage. Do you remember how Silverback used to destroy Max Starks in training camp? That’s pretty much what we should see this weekend. Advantage: Steelers.
Steelers’ LT Max Starks vs. Cowboys’ LB DeMarcus Ware
Like Flozell Adams, Max Starks is a massive LT whose greatest advantage is his size. There just aren’t many players who are as big as Starks. Unfortunately, the best way to neutralize humongous size is with superhuman speed. When you look up superhuman speed in the dictionary, there is a picture of DeMarcus Ware. Oh &%$*@$*!!!!!! Advantage: Cowboys.
Steelers’ CB Ike Taylor vs Cowboys’ WR Terrell Owens.
Ike Usually lines up on the opposite side of the field as T.O. does. However, since Owens is Dallas’ greatest weapon, Coach Tomlin will probably have Ike shadow T.O. wherever he goes.
Ike Taylor is one of the best cover corners in the NFL. He has the size and speed to match up with T.O. It will be an excellent test for Ike, but I believe he’s up to the task. The condition of Heinz Field should definitely work to Ike’s advantage. The field should be sloppy, and that should slow Owens down. Moreover, Ike knows Heinz Field, T.O. doesn’t.
If Ike is able to keep T.O. in check for the first half, T.O. should revert to the spoiled child that we all know him to be. He’ll start yelling at Tony Romo and basically self-destruct (dragging the Cowboys down with him). Advantage: Draw.
Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu vs. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten
Witten is actually Tony Romo’s favorite receiver. He has even more receptions than Terrell Owens. Witten is a Pro Bowl tight end, and he is very effective. However, Troy Polamalu is……..well, Troy Polamalu. There are few players in the league who are as disruptive as Troy. There is a reason that he leads the NFL in interceptions. Advantage: Steelers.
WR’s Santontio Holmes & Hines Ward vs. Cowboys’ secondary
The Cowboys’ secondary is rather weak. There’s no other way to put it. Terence Newman was once one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, but he’s battled injuries all year. Adam “PacMan” Jones was just reinstated, so he’ll definitely be rusty. The Cowboys only have 6 interceptions this season. That’s the same number that Troy Polamalu has by himself. If the offensive line give Ben Roethlisberger a little time, he should be able to pick this secondary apart. Advantage: Steelers.
“Good Ben” vs. “Bad Ben”
This is probably the match-up that is going to have the greatest impact on the game. “Good Ben” is the accurate game manager who doesn’t try to win the game by himself, avoids turnovers, and maintains a high passer rating. Think Ben of 2007.
“Bad Ben” is the Ben that holds onto the ball way too long, takes unnecessary sacks, throws silly interceptions, and is very inaccurate in his delivery. Think Ben of 2006.
This year has been a mixed bag for Big Ben. We’ve seen both “Good Ben” and “Bad Ben”. Unfortunately, we’ve probably seen “Bad Ben” more often than “Good Ben”. I know that Ben has battled a shoulder injury, but as long as Tomlin chooses to start him, I expect him to be able to perform.
Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that every time Nate Washington has 2-3 steps on his defender, Ben under-throws the ball and totally neutralizes Nate’s advantage? Can you even remember one time this year when Ben over-threw the receiver on a long route? Me neither. Ben has just about the same number of interceptions (12) as touchdown passes (13). That’s definitely “Bad Ben”. By comparison, Tony Romo has 21 TD passes and only 8 interceptions this year.
Each week, we’ve basically seen the same thing; the defense dominates, while the offense fails to distinguish itself. So far that’s worked. Afterall, the Steelers are 9-3. But I don’t know if the Steelers can reach their ultimate goal with that formula. This week, just like every week, the most important struggle is going to be an internal struggle; “Good Ben” vs. “Bad Ben”. If “Good Ben” shows up, the Steelers can beat any team in the league. But if “Bad Ben” shows up, then the Cowboys may pull out a win this weekend. Advantage: TBD
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