Two of football’s most storied teams square off Sunday afternoon in a clash with huge playoff implications. Ben Roethlisberger and his Pittsburgh Steelers will look to rebound against a banged-up Dallas Cowboys squad. Both teams have lofty expectations for 2012, and anything less than a playoff berth would be simply unacceptable.
Pittsburgh is coming off a brutal loss at home in Week 14 to the San Diego Chargers. Had they won that game, their road to the playoffs would’ve been much more straightforward, but now the black and yellow have some serious work to do. The Steelers are a banged up side however, and they’ll need to overcome their injury woes if they’re to put on a solid performance Sunday in Dallas. LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu will both suit up Sunday, but they’re playing through injuries. Meanwhile, Ike Taylor and offensive tackle Mike Adams are out injured against the Cowboys. Add in the fact that a virus has swept through Pittsburgh’s locker room this week and it’ll take a lot of resilience for Pittsburgh to emerge victorious on Sunday.
Dallas enters this crucial contest with a 7-6 record and their sights are still set on winning the NFC East. They pulled off a wildly impressive victory in Week 14, going into Cincinnati and emerging in the 4th quarter to steal a victory. Tony Romo came up big when it mattered most, and his growing connection with Dez Bryant has emerged as one of the deadliest in the league. Bryant is an immense talent, when he wants to be, but his status entering Sunday remains highly in doubt. He fractured his left finger last week, and though it seems as if he will try and play through it, you have to wonder how effective his ball-catching ability will be. Other injured players include key cornerback Morris Claiborne, and Jay Ratliff at nosetackle. Their secondary is really banged up at the moment, and limiting the damage through the air will be vital for the Cowboys from here on out.
Steelers vs. Cowboys Betting Odds:
Pittsburgh Steelers -1.5 (-110)
@ Dallas Cowboys +1.5 (-110)
Over 45.5 (-110)
Under 45.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Steelers vs. Cowboys Pick:
This should be quite the game between two of the NFL’s flagship franchises. Big names are littered throughout the rosters of both teams, and this contest should truly take on that of a playoff atmosphere. Unfortunately for the Cowboys though, their homefield advantage has been virtually non-existent since moving into their swanky new stadium, and road teams typically take advantage of that. Expect Sunday to be no different, and look for the Steelers to bounce back from last week’s showing in grand fashion on football’s greatest stage.
Roethlisberger sure did look rusty last week against San Diego, but his wide-outs also dropped a fair amount of catchable balls. That should change against Dallas this week. The Cowboys secondary is ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass, and look for Big Ben to turn in a much improved performance. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown will create mismatch fits all over the field for a depleted Dallas backfield, and expect a fair amount of big plays for Pittsburgh to connect on. Additionally, the Pittsburgh running game has been solid in recent weeks, and the Cowboys’ run defense has been brutal. Injuries to Sean Lee, Jay Ratliff, and Bruce Carter have left their front seven vulnerable to the run game, and look for Jonathan Dwyer to be able to gash that unit. Dallas has conceded an average of 140.3 rushing yards to their past four opponents.
And though it seems like Dez Bryant is going to tough it out and play for Dallas, you still have to wonder how effective he and Romo will be against a premier Steelers defense. Pittsburgh boasts the league’s top-rated pass defense, and Bryant will be pretty much blanketed all game. Dallas’ offensive line is also in shambles at the moment, making Romo susceptible to increased pressure from Pittsburgh’s ferocious pass rush. Expect a long day for Romo and the Cowboys on Sunday.
Mike Tomlin and his Steelers always bounce back after a loss, and as a coach he’s 18-11 against the spread coming off of them. Expect a huge effort from an angry and desperate Pittsburgh side, and look for the black and yellow to exploit the injuries of the Dallas defense. Though this game is close in terms of point-spread, it won’t finish that way. Expect the Steelers to win this game comfortably.
PICK = Steelers -1.5 (-110)