One of the marquee matchups of this week’s NFL slate pits the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. Both of these marquee franchises are fighting to stay in the playoff races of their respective conferences and in desperate need of a victory.
This week’s NFL odds have the Steelers installed as a 1 1/2-point favorite with the over/under pegged at 44 points. Dallas comes in off an emotional last-second victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, while Pittsburgh enters off one of its worse performances of the year in a loss to the San Diego Chargers that also marked the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Cowboys this week continue to deal with the tragic death of Jerry Brown in a car accident over the weekend, which was allegedly caused by teammate Josh Brent driving under the influence. The Dallas organization held a private ceremony to honor Brown Tuesday and Brent was in attendance (at the request of the Brown family) after being released from jail on bail. There was no immediate word on the playing status of Brent. The nose tackle has been one of the Cowboys’ best run-stuffers this season.
The question now is, how much will these developments impact the Cowboys preparation? It obviously has to be a distraction to some extent, and that’s not what you’re looking for heading into the biggest game of the season.
Other bad news out of Dallas is wide receiver Dez Bryant could miss this game and perhaps more because of a fracture to his left index finger. Bryant has emerged the last few weeks as the playmaker the Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo have been desperately seeking. If he is out against the Steelers it would be a huge blow to the Cowboys chances.
Dallas will certainly be playing with heavy hearts, but they could be catching the Steelers at just the right time. Roethlisberger looked nowhere near 100 percent against the Chargers last week and the lack of pass-rush from the once-feared Steelers defensive unit is a growing concern. The Cowboys look fully capable of springing a straight-up win as a mild home underdog.