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Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Steelers Escape Trap

PRELUDE TO STEELERS VERSUS DALLAS COWBOYS

The Steelers are undefeated. The Cowboys starting their fourth quarterback of the season. Most folks predicted a Pittsburgh victory. The question more of how dominant their performance would be. The Steelers might be able to rest some players if they built enough of a lead.

I’m back home in Maryland and watched the game from my couch. Like most folks, I expected a Steelers win and just hoped they would not play down to their level.

THE STEELERS FORECAST

Steelers Depot gives us specific things we should look for during the game. I always read these articles prior to kickoff:

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Matthew Marczi describe what to watch for in the game. Matt suggests studying the rotation between wide receivers James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud.  More Ray-Ray may mean more no-huddle. Watch the running attack. Can James Conner and Anthony McFarland roll? See if the defensive front dominates the Dallas offensive line. Will the defense intercept or strip sack an inexperienced quarterback?

Tyler Wise identified the key matchup to watch this week. Tyler identifies the Steelers defense remaining disciplined against a Dallas Offense that will have trick plays hidden in their sleeves. The Steelers defense extremely aggressive. The only chance an overmatched offense has is to throw in wrinkles that take advantage of over aggressiveness.

KEYS TO VICTORY

Dave Bryan identified the five keys to a Steelers victory. First, make Gilbert throw a lot. Second, use a lot of pre-snap motion to free up running game. Third, Ben connects on some deep shots. Fourth, limit Dallas receivers to completions less than 30 yards. Fifth, don’t take unnecessary risks on third and long.

THE PREDICTION

Alex Kozora forecast what would happen in his Steelers versus Cowboys prediction. Alex foresaw victory if Steelers play to their talent level, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt dominate for multiple sacks, and special teams pressure the new punter. On the other hand, the Steelers lose if turnovers and penalties end their drives, Cowboys receiving corps scores big, Demarcus Lawrence makes big plays. Alex predicted the Steelers winning 30-14.

You can compare these pregame guides to Alex’s analysis of the game’s winners and losers which came out within minutes of the final whistle. How does his analysis compare with your view of the game?

STEELERS OFFENSE

FIRST HALF

The Steelers offense was ineffectual as Dallas built a 13-0 lead. Ben leads them on a long touchdown drive. Mason Rudolph makes an appearance.

OFFENSE INEFFECTUAL FOR FOUR DRIVES

The Steelers made two first downs on their opening drive. Ben scrambled up the middle on third and seven. The next set of downs was all James Conner. He ran successively for three, six then two yards to get a new set of downs. Then it fell apart. First Ben threw deep for Diontae Johnson and missed. Benny Snell gained three yards on second and ten. Then Ben threw deep right to Chase Claypool. No flag on the play and he cannot reach it. Steelers punt.

The Steelers start their next drive down 3-0. Early hole as Conner tackled four yards behind scrimmage on pass play. Benny Snell runs again on second and long for a two-yard loss. On third and 16, Ben throws short and Diontae Johnson gains just six yards. Steelers punt.

The first quarter seemed to pass by quickly. The Steelers third possession to start second quarter still down 3-0. Ben connects with Claypool for 14 on the first play. McFarland gains seven on that pre-snap motion offense. JuJu gets the first down on a five-yard passing play. Ben to McFarland for eight and a second and two. This is more like it. McFarland stopped up the middle for no gain. Steelers try middle again with Benny Snell but the Cowboys stuff them again. Where is Conner?

Dallas exploits the turnover on downs to go up 10-0. Conner gains six on first down but then just one on second. Ben cannot connect with Diontae Johnson on third down. Another punt.

STEELERS GET A SCARE BUT WAKEUP FOR A SCORE

The Cowboys nearly score on a trick play on the punt return but held to a field goal. The offense gets the ball with 3:46 left in half down 13-0 They need to score some points as Dallas gets the ball to start the second half.

Ben passes to JuJu for eight and then Claypool for nine to start. Then its Diontae for thirteen who fights his way for the first down.  Ben goes deep to Claypool who a defender mugs, but officials don’t throw the flag. On second down, Ben finds Diontae for four. But Ben caroms between two defenders and lands awkwardly. He grabs his left knee. Very scary.

Steelers charged timeout with 1:31 left in half. Ben limps to huddle and connects with Eric Ebron for the first down. Then, Ben completes a pass to Claypool who elevates to catch the ball for ten yards. Ben to Ebron for five to the 17-yard line. Ben pump fakes then passes to James Washington in the end zone to make it a 13-6. The drive marred by the missed extra point and concerns about Ben’s knee.

MASON RUDOLPH APPEARS

Ben heads to the locker room with just over a minute to go in the half. Cam Sutton forces a fumble recovered by Minkah Fitzpatrick and suddenly Mason Rudolph is thrust into the game. I don’t think he had a chance for warmup throws.

The Steelers have the ball at the 39-yard line with 52 seconds to go. Chris Boswell’s career long field goal is 53 yards which makes the 35-yard line the outer limits of his range. On first down, Rudolph completes to Claypool for one yard. On second it goes to Conner for two to set up third and seven at the 36-yard line. Steelers goal just to get the ball past the 35 to increase Boswell’s odds.

JuJu catches a deflected pass on third down for 18 yards! But officials call Anthony Brown for defensive holding and the Steelers for an illegal formation. Offsetting penalties to play down over but no time added to clock. Only seven seconds remain. Dallas call timeout to ice Rudolph. Rudolph misses Ebron with two seconds left. Dallas calls time to ice Boswell.

Boswell attempts a 54-yard field goal which would be a new personal record. The ball sails wide left but had distance. Hold on. The officials called Pittsburgh for a false start. That means a re-kick. Honestly, I thought Boswell had no chance from this distance. But Boswell proves his doubters wrong as he hits the 59-yard field goal to close the half down just 13-9.

SECOND HALF

The offense answers two Dallas field goals with a touchdown. Flip a score saving interception into three points of their own. Score a game winning drive but make it exciting to finish.

BEN GETS SOME GOOD JUJU

The Cowboys extend their lead to 16-9 to open the half. Steelers go three and out on first possession. Diontae Johnson gained four on a sweep right on second down. On third and four, Ben missed James Washington deep and took a hard shot.

The offense got the ball back with 2:13 left in third quarter now down 19-9. Ben throws six straight passes; eight if you count two plays negated by penalty. JuJu gains 20 yards on a screen play to start the drive. Ben throws two incompletions for third and ten. He connects with JuJu for another 20 and a first down. Ben overthrows Claypool in the end zone on a free play. Eric Ebron catches the next pass for a yard, but officials penalize him for offensive holding. How many times have you seen the person catching the ball called for offensive holding?

On first and 15, JuJu catches another ball for nine yards to the 31-yard line. On the next play, Ben finds JuJu near the goal line. JuJu bulls through two defenders for the touchdown. Dallas blocks the extra point making it 19-15. Did the defender illegally leverage the center to gain height? Will have to watch again but regardless there was no flag. Those two missing points are worrisome.

OFFENSE FLIPS A TURNOVER INTO THREE

A Cowboys score appeared inevitable until it wasn’t. Minkah intercepts in the end zone and Steelers get the ball at the one-yard line after a Terrell Edmunds penalty on the return.

Ray-Ray McCloud gained eight to provide breathing space on second down. Ben finds Claypool for seven. It’s a Pittsburgh Steelers first down. Ben throws left again to McCloud for eight yards. Then to Diontae Johnson for nine and another first down. Short passes working. Ben’s short pass to Claypool gains 14. Then the Cowboys strip sack Ben and recover the ball. Officials call Jaylon Smith for illegal contact. No play and five years added.

McFarland runs six yards but gets 15 more when Leighton Vander Esch smacks him in the head. Cowboys frustrated and now making dumb moves. But offense stalls at the 24-yard line. Claypool open but Dallas deflects Ben’s pass at the line of scrimmage. Boswell kicks 43-yard field goal for 19-18 score. Those two missed points. Yoi.

STEELERS TAKE FIRST LEAD WITH 2:14 LEFT IN GAME

The Steelers got the ball back with 4:11 to play. Ben throws a deep pass to Claypool incomplete, but officials call Jaylon Smith for roughing the passer. Smith did make contact near Ben’s facemask. Back in the day, no call. In today’s NFL clear violation. The blow to helmet seems to clear cobwebs in Ben’s head. He throws four straight completions to go ahead in the game for the first time.

First, Claypool gains nine on a short pass. Then Diontae Johnson zigs and zags for 42 yards after another short pass. Diontae goes down in bounds at the 13. Ben’s short pass to Claypool goes five yards. Then Ben finds Ebron who leaps over a would-be tackler for the go-ahead score.

Ben’s two-point conversion pass attempt is deflected away. Score is now 24-19.

The offense has one more possession to ice the game. Conner runs twice for five years. Dallas uses their final two timeouts. Claypool runs left and slides but is one yard short of a first down.

CONTROVERSIAL DECISION

On fourth and one, Mike Tomlin makes a controversial decision. A field goal will give the Steelers an eight-point lead so the most Dallas can do is tie the game if the attempt is good. Instead he runs the ball which would also seal the game if converted. But Conner stopped for a four-yard loss and the Cowboys get the ball back with 38 seconds to play and a touchdown needed to snatch the game away.

Did Tomlin blink or was it the right decision?

STEELERS DEFENSE

FIRST HALF

Defense gives up three scores in first half. But takeaway late in half helps.

DEFENSE ALLOWS LONG SCORING DRIVE

The Dallas Cowboys starting their fourth quarterback. Steelers fans calculating how many sacks and turnovers the defense would record coming into the game.

The Cowboys begin their first possession at the 15-yard line. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert shows elusiveness by gaining two yards on first down with T.J. Watt in the backfield. Michael Gallup catches a pass to set up a short third and two. Gilbert completes a deep pass to Amari Cooper for 32 yards. No one expecting this.

Ezekiel Elliott runs five on first down. Elliott runs two more times for six yards and a first down. On second and ten, Tony Pollard runs 20 yards around the left end. Vince Williams stops Pollard for a loss when he tries the opposite end. On third and ten, Alex Highsmith sacks Gilbert. His first and the Cowboys settle for a field goal. Still, the defense gave up a 65-yard drive and the Cowboys lead early in the game.

COWBOYS SCORE TD ON ANOTHER LONG DRIVE

The defense forces a three and out on next drive. Stephon Tuitt stopped Elliott for a loss on first down. Robert Spillane tackled Dalton Schultz preventing a first down. Heyward and Vince Williams stop Elliott for no gain. It looks like Cowboys will go for it on fourth and one but let the quarter lapse.

Haden back for punt. A case of the threat of a fake punt taking the Steelers best return threat off the board. Cowboys get the ball back at their 35 after stopping Steelers on a fourth downplay. Gilbert displays mobility by evading Steelers blitz and running left for 15 yards to midfield. Watt defects a pass in the backfield. Gilbert scrambles for another first down.

Isaiah Buggs stops Pollard for no gain. However, previous successful runs set up a successful play action pass on second down. Gilbert to Schultz for 16. Elliott runs three yards. Heyward strong rush forces Gilbert to throw incomplete. But on third and seven, linebacker T.J. Watt cannot cover wide receiver CeeDee Lamb who scores easy 20-yard touchdown. Cowboys up 10-0

 DEFENSE HOLDS COWBOYS TO 3 ON SHORT FIELD; TAKEAWAY TO FINISH HALF

Steelers test faced stern test following a Cowboys trick play on punt return. Cedric Wilson field punt and then lateralled across the field to C.J. Goodwin who feigned a limp as he went into position. Goodwin returned the ball 73 yards but a block in the back brought the ball to the 31-yard line. Two Steelers connections: Cedric Wilson Jr. is the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Cedric Wilson Sr. who wore the black and gold from 2005-07. The Steelers signed CJ Goodwin as an undrafted wide receiver free agent in 2014. The Falcons signed him in 2015 and converted him into a defensive back.

Buggs tackled Elliott for three yards on first down from the 31. Vince Williams dropped him for a two-yard loss. On third down Amari Cooper tripped up and Steve Nelson tagged him down forcing a field goal that made the score 13-0.

The Cowboys got the ball back with 1:10 left after Steelers touchdown. The first play negated by an illegal formation to set up first and 15. Gilbert connects with CeeDee Lamb by the sticks, but Cam Sutton forces the fumble. Minkah Fitzpatrick recovers the ball giving the Steelers another chance to score. Half ends with Cowboys up 13-9.

SECOND HALF

Steelers defense gives up two field goals in third quarter. Shuts Cowboys out in fourth including a score saving takeaway.

Cowboys Score Six in Third Quarter

The Cowboys moved the ball to the 27-yard line on the opening drive of the half. Elliot’s five-yard run sets up second and five. Michael Gallup ten-yard reception with Joe Haden in coverage. Amari Cooper reverse sweep gains eight. Cowboys offense gashing Steelers defense. Elliott gains three for first down. Another pass to Amari Cooper for eight. On third and two, Tony Pollard runs 20 yards by right tackle.

On first and 10 at 23-yard line, Gilbert passes in backfield. Carlos Davis tackles Blake Bell four-yard loss. Bud Dupree brings on the heat on third down. Gilbert hurries his throw. Incomplete and Cowboys settle for field goal. 16-9.

Steelers offense punts and Cowboys start at their 25. Joe Haden almost intercepts ball on first down. Pollard gains five on second. Third and five Pollard gains 12 with Marcus Allen and Edmunds tackling him. Heyward tackles Pollard for two-yard loss. Cowboys switch horses to Ezekiel Elliott. On send and 12 Elliott gains 16. Vince Williams tackles Schultz for eight-yard gain. On third and two Gilbert finds CeeDee Lamb, Spillane tackles him. Elliott held to one yard on two carries for third and nine. Elliott very nearly gets the first down but stopped just short. The Cowboys kick another field goal to go up 19-9. They have also dominated clock and third quarter nearly over with just over two minutes left.

STEELERS INTERCEPT TO PREVENT SCORE

Steelers pulled close to 19-15. Boswell kicking from 50 after penalty on touchdown. Boswell kicks short to pin Cowboys in. Rico Dowdle returned the kick from the goal line down the sideline to the Steelers 36. Gilbert goes right to the air for 14 yards to Schultz. Elliott runs five yards into the red zone at the 17. Elliott runs ten yards before Minkah tackles him at the seven. The Cowboys smell blood.

Spillane stops Elliott at the five. Watt deflects a pass to set up third and goal. Steelers rush heavy. Gilbert throws from a crowd toward Wilson. Minkah steps up to intercept the ball in the end zone. He runs out and tackled at eight. Edmunds called for illegal block, but it did not look egregious to me. He tried to throw his body in front of the player. Regardless, its Steelers ball and the Cowboys don’t score. The defensive play of the game.

The Cowboys got the ball back with the score 19-18. Watt batted another ball at the line of scrimmage on first down. Cowboys get a first after Cooper gains nine, then Elliott carries it across for the first. Pollard gains four. Mondeaux then stops him for one-yard loss setting up third and seven. Steelers blitz hurrying Gilbert whose pass falls incomplete. Cowboys punt keeping the Steelers within one 19-18.

TAKEAWAY ON DOWNS; ANTICLIMATIC STAND TO END

The Cowboys get the ball with 2:14 to play following the Steelers go-ahead score. They have all three timeouts. It is 24-19. Three touchdowns with no extra points incredibly significant now.

Amari Cooper gains 14 on Gilbert’s first pass. The two-minute warning. Gilbert overthrows Schultz with Spillane in coverage. Sutton nearly intercepts. Steelers rushing hard, Gilbert misses Lamb on second down. Watt nearly intercepts third down pass, but Ezekiel Elliott has it. Haden makes shoestring tackle to limit gain to two yards. Dallas uses first time out which gives defense a breather. On fourth and eight, Heyward and Watt combine to sack Gilbert. Turnover on downs with 1:37 to play.

Cowboys get the ball back with 38 seconds after their own takeaway on downs. From the 19, Gilbert completes 32-yard pass to Lamb in soft coverage. He throws deep to Lamb again but incomplete. On third and ten, Gilbert finds Michael Gallup for 20 yards to the 29. 15 seconds elapse from last snap to spiking the ball. Seven seconds remain. Quick out to Cedric Williams to the 23. One play left. Gilbert throws for Lamb. But for the second week in a row, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick defends the last pass to preserve a Steelers victory.

SPECIAL TEAMS

I break special teams play into six phases: Kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts, punt returns, field goal kicking and blocking field goals plus PAT attempts.

KICKOFFS

Chris Boswell kicked off five times. Three kickoffs were touchbacks. Tony Pollard returned one for 23 yards reaching the 23-yard line to open the second half. Alex Highsmith tackled him. Boswell kicked from the 50 following the Steelers first score of second half. He kicked it right to the corner attempting to hem in the Cowboys deep. Inexplicably, Rico Dowdle ran right down the sideline for a 64-yard return before Cam Sutton tackled him. The all-22 tape should reveal what happened on this play.

Greg Zuerlein kicked off six times. Ray-Ray McCloud returned the opening kickoff 29 yards to the Steelers 26. That was the Steelers best starting position from kickoffs. Zuerlein kicked five straight touchbacks afterwards keeping McCloud out of play.  Advantage Cowboys.

PUNTING

Jordan Berry punted four times averaging 50.8 yards a punt. The Cowboys fair caught his first punt, a 34-yarder, at their 15-yard line.  Berry boomed his second 57 yards to the 18. Cedric Wilson reached the 21-yard line where Jayrone Elliott brought him down. Berry’s longest punt traveled 62 yards. Cedric Wilson gathered it up and lateral across the field to C.J. Goodwin who had feigned a limp getting into position. Goodwin returned the ball 73 yards, but referees called Dallas for blocking Jordan Dangerfield in the back. I thought I saw a block in the back right when Goodwin first took off but obviously the officials did not see it. Berry’s fourth punt went 50 yards and returned six yards to the 25 where James Pierre brought down CeeDee Lamb. Berry netted 30.3 yards a punt. Berry punted well but the coverage unit burnt badly on the Crossfield lateral.

James Niswander punted twice averaging 39.5 yards per punt. His first punt started the second quarter. The Steelers had Joe Haden back deep. Obviously, the Steelers feared a fake punt. Blinked, then switched out McCloud for Haden. NOTE: I heard a more plausible explanation. During timeout the Cowboys stayed huddled up so it was unclear whether they would punt or go for it. So the Steelers defense unit stayed on field with Haden moving back as a returner.  Regardless, the Cowboys negated the Steelers return threat and Haden fair caught the ball at his own 30. Ray-Ray caught Niswander’s second punt in the fourth quarter. Goodwin tackled Ray-Ray for no gain at the 21-yard line.   Advantage Cowboys.

FIELD GOALS AND POINTS AFTER TDS

Chris Boswell missed his first extra point attempt. The Cowboys blocked the second. The Steelers unsuccessfully attempted a two-point conversion. So, no points scored following three touchdowns. Boswell did set a franchise and personal record 59-yard field goal to end the first half. He missed a 54-yard attempt, but a false start gave him another shot from five yards back. Boswell also nailed a 43-yard kick. Zuerlein made his only extra point attempt and was four for four in field goals.   Advantage Cowboys.

DAVE BRYAN’S VICTORY PUNCH LIST REVIEW

  1. Make Gilbert throw a lot. Dallas passed 38 times and ran 31 (55% passing plays). Balanced attack compared to Steelers throwing over 70% on offense.  Mission fail.
  2. Use a lot of pre-snap motion to free up running game. Steelers ran 18 times for 46 yards. No matter how sliced the running game was never free. Mission fail.
  3. Ben connects on some deep shots. Ben completed two of six long passes where ball traveled more than 15 yards downfield. Two touchdowns fir this category. While not what we expected touchdowns count. Mission accomplished.
  4. Limit Dallas receivers to completions less than 30 yards. Dallas receivers made two 32-yard completions. Mission fail.
  5. Don’t take unnecessary risks on third and long. Ben threw deep twice on third and long plays. Once it in the first drive and later in the second half when a defender hit him in the face mask for a penalty. He never forced it and tended to throw behind the sticks or run. Mission accomplished

YOUR HOT TAKES DURING THE GAME

FIRST HALF READER COMMENTS

Steelers Depot readers commented 1227 times on the game’s first half Live Update and Discussion Thread. Ross McCorkle kept us informed with live updates as we chirped our comments.

All three phases, offense, defense, and special teams played poorly. The Steelers offense held scoreless for much of the first half and ineffectual runs on second and long plays to set up punts led to this “best” comment by Chris92021: “Sorry but no one should defend Fichtner anymore .” Chris continued with many agreeing, All those slow starts on offense pretty much mean whatever game plan Fichtner comes up with does not work. It was not all Duck and Mason last year. We brought in Canada for a reason. Let him call the plays or let Roethlisberger ad lib again.”

The sun glare in Ben’s eyes very noticeable in second quarter. Stone Age Tone asked, “Spend a zillion dollars on a stadium, but can’t afford a set of curtains?”

Pdupuis noted “We’re playing exactly like I thought this trap game would play out so far. 3rd road game, coming off emotional win vs Ravens, weak opponent, looking ahead to Bungles next week.”

As the half ended, we feared for Ben’s knee. SFSteeler observed, “one legged Ben no huddle, always better than 2-legged Fitch calling” Matt Steelers Fan shared a similar sentiment: “This team needs to stop being PC to save face for the coaching staff. Admit that Big Ben is the best OC on the staff, get him in the Backyard set (whatever you want to call it) and let him run our version of Jim Kelly’s K-gun Bills offense in the 90s. Quit wasting drives on that other BS.”

The Ravens Team Gynecologist shared Steelers fan insiders knowledge: “People who don’t follow this team are probably shocked right now.”

I’m sure many of you share Nunya’s observation: “Sports Media: Dallas playing poor defense and a practice squad QB. Shouldn’t even be a game. Steelers fans: Dallas playing poor defense and a practice squad QB. Oh ^}+{%!!!”

Steelers close the gap to 13-9 but it felt like they were way outplayed and outcoached.

SECOND HALF READER COMMENTS

Comments up to 1450 in the 2nd half live discussion. A shaky game.

RyanM sees attrition hurting run defense, “Really starting to feel the losses of Bush and Alualu up the middle. Defense is just getting pushed around on runs.”

Ben’s injury has Michael evaluating Steelers backup quarterbacks. “Garrett Gilbert is better than Mason & Duck combined!” But we still have Josh Dobbs. Tom Steelers All the Way still haunted by the very end of first half. “Rudolph looks HORRIBLE! Looks like nothing has changed in a year” Nolrog observed, “That first pass he threw took a long time to get to the receiver.”

Many people agree with GrumpyHighlander, “This was a trap game and we escaped😅”

Nik Draft still befuddled by offensive scheme, “Why does this team always go deep in critical down situations? it’s absurd!!!” RyanM focused on the defense, “The problem is when your offense is struggling to score, letting the opposing offense consistently move down the field and score points, even if its three, is not a recipe for success. Be a great defense and get some three and outs for a change. Flip the field.”

My wife had same question as Nolrog, “Why don’t you kick the FG there? That makes it an 8-point game, so even if they get the TD, you can still defend the 2. But now on a lucky play, you lose.”

PaeperCup with sage advice: “Celebrate the win, don’t celebrate the game. Ugly ugly”

CONCLUSION

No such thing as an automatic win. The Steelers proved that on Sunday. The offense attempted pre-snap movement to start the game. But the Cowboys answered. Ben threw a few deep balls to start. Ben failed to connect. The offense did manage a strong drive to close the gap in the first half. Ben responded after hurting his knee. In the second half, he took a swipe at the helmet that woke him up too. Scoring a field goal after starting at the one-yard line huge point swing.

The defense looked very vulnerable. They gave up big runs but also big passes to a quarterback in his first start. A couple turnovers and a sack on fourth down redeemed their poor play.

Special teams played atrociously overall. Boswell’s 59-yard franchise record field goal was one bright spot. Jordan Berry’s punting was another. However, no points following three touchdowns unacceptable. A miss. A blocked kick. A failed two-point conversion. Add a 73-yard punt return using a Crossfield lateral and a 64-yard kickoff return and the coverage units just flunked.

TRAP GAME?

One definition of a trap games is, “A trap game is when a stronger opponent overlooks a weaker opponent, and the weaker opponent overcomes adversity potentially winning the game.”

The Steelers were stronger than Dallas going into this game. The Cowboys overcame the loss of their franchise quarterback and main back-up to nearly win this game. Dallas used a game plan that avoided the Steelers pass rush – Gilbert only sacked twice. The Cowboys also used trick plays and another big return to provide good field position for their offense. However, I do not believe the Steelers “overlooked” the Cowboys. I’m sure Mike Tomlin conducted the same preparations for this game as all others.

I credit the Cowboys game plan and blame a poor game plan on the Steelers coaches for such a deficient performance. For example, the defensive calls on several third downs had linebackers forced to cover wide receivers. On offense, running the ball on second and long proved ineffectual. And then the special team gaffes. The other factor is player execution. Receivers dropped several passes. Defenders missed tackles. Kickers missed extra points.

Not a trap game by definition. But the Steelers escaped a trap in Dallas. The trap being an inadequate game plan and poor execution by multiple players. Next they face Joe Burrows who may be the best passing quarterback in the AFC North. Time to buckle down. Here we go.

GAME HERO

I pick two heroes this week. On offense it is Ben Roethlisberger playing through an injured knee. He threw the first touchdown just a few plays after hurting his knee. The Steelers passed on all but one play in their three second half scoring drives. All Ben and his targeted receivers.

On defense, I pick Minkah Fitzpatrick. His first turnover led to three more points to close the first half. Fitzpatrick then intercepted Gilbert’s pass in the end zone to prevent a Cowboys score. The Steelers scored three more on the ensuing drive. Finally, he defended the final pass at the end of the game to seal the Steelers victory.

Onward

Ben should be okay to play next week. But now we’ve learned Vance McDonald tested positive for Covid-19. We will learn more on Tuesday as well as the injury situation. We could use Steelers like Tyson Alualu and Mike Hilton to be available.

YOUR MUSIC SELECTION

I always like to offer a music selection. This game a little too exciting for Steelers fans. Especially the end when they could not convert a fourth and one play. By special request, here is Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue.

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