Once Dak Prescott went down for the season with a rather nasty injury, it was assumed that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys would be all about former All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott. The veteran, however, is nursing a hamstring injury that he suffered last week, and there is speculation that he may not even play.
In a sign of this possibility, the cowboys elevated a running back from the practice squad with Elliott deemed questionable. While owner Jerry Jones reportedly said on his radio show that he anticipates the back to play, head coach Mike McCarthy has said that it would be a true game-time decision based on a pre-game warmup.
It is perhaps worth noting that players who are elevated to the active roster do not count against the 53-man roster (they are technically a 54th or 55th player), but they do count against the active list, so if you have a player elevated from the practice squad for a game and he is active, then you are going to have an extra inactive.
Outside of Elliott, the only running backs that the team has on the 53-man roster are Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle, not including the elevated Siwo Olonilua, a rookie who will be making his NFL debut assuming that he is indeed active for the game—which is extremely likely.
The Steelers were very explicit in stating that the focus of their game plan leading into the week was to stop Elliott, with defensive coordinator Keith Butler saying on Wednesday, “that’s all you need right there. He is the guy”.
“If I’m them, I’m going in with what I know has helped me succeed in the past, and obviously, it’s 21”, he said. “We will see about the quarterback when we get there, see how he does and all that stuff. We looked at film on him. We will have a little idea of what we think he does best to try and take that away as much as we can”.
Of course, the absence of Elliott, assuming that he doesn’t play, doesn’t mean that the Cowboys won’t still emphasize the running game. Pollard did have some success last year, rushing for 455 yards on 85 carries with two touchdowns. He has 149 yards on 38 carries this year. Dowdle, a college free agent rookie, has only played three snaps this season, however.
Something tells me that Butler won’t be complaining if their game plan of stopping Elliott goes down the toilet because it turns out that they won’t even have to play him. However, they still have to stop whoever is on the field, and without Tyson Alualu (and possibly Mike Hilton as well), plus with the memories of last week’s dire showing, people will still enter this game with concerns.