It’s no secret the Pittsburgh Steelers have to shut down the Dallas Cowboys’ run game. It’s the best in the league with a top five back and the best offensive line. At center for them is Travis Frederick, also one of the league’s top at his position, challenging the rookie Hargrave. It’s a far cry from his days in the MEAC.
If the Steelers can make Dallas one-dimensional, put the game in the hands of their rookie, it’s going to increase the chance for splash plays. And that’s what this defense needs. Splash. Personnel wise, they’re in about the same place as they were a year ago minus all the impact plays.
Part of that is because the run defense has suffered. Miami and New England are great examples. They were in control, were in generous down/distances, and made it even tougher for the defense to swing momentum back on their side.
Against Baltimore, when they shut the Ravens’ run game down, they had splash. Three sacks and a pick. Still lost but it’s hard to blame it on that group.
Of course, Dallas has a much, much tougher rushing attack and that’s why Hargrave is the pick. Cam Heyward should do well. Ditto with Stephon Tuitt. Hargrave is the X-Factor. He’s actually done well against the run this season, even holding his ground on double-teams but this might be his toughest task yet. Frederick and right guard Zach Martin are A+ athletes like him but can maul in the run game.
It will be Hargrave who decides how well this run defense performs. If they do well, Pittsburgh has a chance. If they falter, it’ll be an almost impossible mission to beat Dallas.
And I don’t have to tell you how much is riding on this game.