PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-6)
at DALLAS COWBOYS (7-6)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT
Line: Pittsburgh -1.5, Total: 44
Two storied franchises meet for a game with major playoff implications for both conferences when Pittsburgh visits Dallas on Sunday.
The Cowboys have won four of five, but they have to once again try to figure things out at home. They are 3-3 SU at Cowboys Stadium but have failed to cover in any of those six games (0-6 ATS). Playing with heavy hearts after the DUI that killed practice squad LB Jerry Brown and landed DT Josh Brent in prison, Dallas gutted out a win in Cincinnati last week, overcoming a nine-point deficit with less than seven minutes to play. The Steelers are coming off a terrible home loss to San Diego, losing despite getting Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup. While Roethlisberger was rusty (22-of-42, 285 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT), it was a lack of playmaking from the defense that did them in against the Chargers. Pittsburgh’s pass rush will have to take advantage of the Cowboys’ weak offensive line to win this.
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Roethlisberger has quietly had a great season with a 98.6 passer rating. He's completed 65% of his passes for 2,572 yards, 20 TD and 5 INT in his 10 games. His return under center was just what top WR Mike Wallace needed, as he caught seven passes for 112 yards and 2 TD in the loss to San Diego. Wallace now has eight touchdown grabs for the season. One receiver that is looking to get back on track is Antonio Brown, who averaged 88.4 yards per game in Weeks 1-7, but has just 150 yards (37.5 per game) in his past four contests. TE Heath Miller leads the Steelers with 61 catches, and his 679 yards and 7 TD rank second among his teammates. But with Dallas having a strong pass defense (218 YPG, 8th in NFL), Pittsburgh might want to try running the football on a mediocre run-stop unit (119 rush YPG, 16th in NFL) that has allowed 471 rushing yards (6.2 YPC) over the past three games. However, the Steelers have only 71 rushing YPG (3.4 YPC) in their past three contests and just 99 rushing YPG (25th in NFL) for the season. With Rashard Mendenhall suspended for this game, Jonathan Dwyer (510 rush yds, 4.2 YPC) and Isaac Redman (350 rush yds, 3.6 YPC) will be the main backs on Sunday. Pittsburgh continues to turn the football over at an alarming rate, with 16 giveaways in the past four games, but the Cowboys have just four takeaways in their past four games.
Like Pittsburgh, Dallas is a great passing team (292 YPG, 3rd in NFL), but has a terrible ground game (80 rush YPG, 2nd-fewest in league). RB DeMarco Murray is finally back healthy, but he has gained just 136 yards on 44 carries (3.1 YPC) in the past two games. He's now facing Pittsburgh's fifth-ranked run defense (93 rush YPG). Cowboys QB Tony Romo has thrown for a whopping 347 YPG in his six home games, but has tossed 12 INT and taken 20 sacks (4 INT, 11 sacks on road). He'll have to be more careful with the football against a Steelers defense that not only leads the NFL with 169 passing YPG allowed, but should have the services of three big playmakers on Sunday -- S Troy Polamalu (calf) and LBs James Harrison (illness) and LaMarr Woodley (ankle). Pittsburgh's secondary is depleted though with CB Ike Taylor (ankle) out and DBs Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen both questionable with hip flexor ailments. Romo may also be missing his top receiver in Dez Bryant who broke his left index finger last week and is officially listed as questionable. He says he will play, but expect both WR Miles Austin (819 rec. yds, 5 TD) and TE Jason Witten (92 rec, 880 yds, 1 TD) to be seeing even more targets than usual.