Week 9 Steelers-Cowboys News & Notes

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

The Steelers are on the brink of breaking a franchise record. With a win over the ill-fated (2-6) Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in Jerry's World, they'll improve to 8-0 and surpass the 1978 Steelers' team for the best start to a season in franchise history. Before the season started, this game was circled as one of the premier games on the NFL schedule, being that the two teams have the most popular fan bases in the league, and it seemed like both teams would be competitive. However, with Dak Prescott out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury and Garrett Gilbert making his first career start at quarterback for Dallas. This matchup on paper is lopsided in favor of the Steelers.

- The Steelers are 15-17 all-time against the Cowboys. The Steelers are 1-2 against the Cowboys under Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger is 2-2 in his career against Dallas. The Cowboys have won the last two games against the Steelers -- beating them 35-30 at Heinz Field in 2016 and 27-24 in Arlington, Texas in 2012. The Steelers last win against the Cowboys came in 2008 when Deshea Townsend picked off Tony Romo late in the fourth quarter and returned it for a touchdown to secure a 20-13 victory for Pittsburgh. In Roethlisberger's fourth career start in 2004, the Steelers beat the Cowboys, 24-20, at the old Texas Stadium. The two franchises have met each other in the Super Bowl three times, which is an NFL record. The Steelers won two of the three games; beating Dallas 21-17 in Super Bowl X and again two years later 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII. The Cowboys got the best of the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, winning 27-17.

- Even though they are in separate conferences, the Steelers and Cowboys have always had a rivalry with each other, which pretty much stems from the two Super Bowl games in the 1970s. The Steelers were a tough, gritty, blue-collar team that represented the city of Pittsburgh, while the Cowboys were more flashy with glitz and glamour. During the 1970s is when the NFL really started to take off in popularity. Television started to play a bigger role in the 1970s and more people were watching the NFL. The two best teams of the decade were the Steelers and Cowboys; Pittsburgh winning four Super Bowls in six years and Dallas winning two Super Bowls, with five appearances. The success of both teams in the 1970s is why they are two of the most popular franchises in the NFL and have the largest fan bases around the country and the globe. The Cowboys were labeled as "America's Team" in the 1970s, a nickname that was originally offered by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to the Steelers after they won Super Bowl X, but Art Rooney Sr. said, "We are not America's team, we are the Pittsburgh Steelers."

- The Steelers were the team of the 1970s and the Cowboys were the team of the 1990s, winning three Super Bowls in four years. The Steelers were 4-1 against the Cowboys in the 1970s (including the two Super Bowls). Their only loss to Dallas in the decade came in 1972 and Terry Bradshaw was 5-1 all-time in his career against the Cowboys, with that lone loss being the 1972 game. On the flip side, the Cowboys were 4-0 against the Steelers in the 1990s (including the Super Bowl game).

- The Steelers are 14.5-point favorites against the Cowboys on Sunday, according to The Steelers have not been a double-digit favorite on the road since losing to the Raiders, 24-21, on Dec. 9, 2018. The Steelers are 1-12 against the spread in that scenario going back to 1993. The Vegas line for the Steelers-Raiders game in 2018 was 10.5 points. The over/under for Sunday's game is 44 points. The Cowboys are 0-8 against the spread in their last eight games and the Steelers are 5-0 against the spread in their last five games, per The Steelers under Mike Tomlin are 22-5 straight up when favorited by 10 points or more, according to Pro Football Reference. The worst loss under Tomlin when it comes to being favorites was in 2009 when they lost at home to the Raiders in Week 13, 27-24. The Steelers were 15-point favorites in that game.

- Even though the Steelers are heavy favorites against the Cowboys and are a much better team. They can't let up and overlook Dallas, as the Steelers have lost to inferior teams in the past. The most recent being the aforementioned disaster that took place in Oakland in 2018. JuJu Smith-Schuster remembers that game and is using it as a reminder to stay grounded.

You have to stay humble," Smith-Schuster said. "Every team is really good. Two years ago, we were a really good team and went to the Oakland Raiders and we fell short and lost the game. Although the Cowboys don't have their quarterback, you never know. They have the opportunity to beat an undefeated team. You have to stay humble and go into Arlington, Texas, and get the job done."

- Gilbert, who will get the start for the Cowboys at quarterback against the Steelers was drafted out of SMU in the sixth round by the Rams in 2014. Gilbert has played 18 snaps in his career and has completed 2 of 6 passes for 33 yards. Gilbert has been a journeyman in his career playing for six different teams and played for the Orlando Apollos of the now-defunct AAF in 2019. Cooper Rush will be the backup quarterback for Dallas. Rush went undrafted out of Central Michigan in 2017 and signed with the Cowboys. He has played 15 snaps in five career games with Dallas, completing 1 of 3 passes for 2 yards.

- With the Cowboys decimated at the quarterback position, they'll have to rely on three-time Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott to carry the offense to have any chance of winning. The problem is, Elliott hasn't played like a Pro Bowl running back this year. Not all of it is on Elliott, however, as the Cowboys have had a lot of injuries on their offensive line, but he has rushed for 521 yards on 132 carries and five touchdowns, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. Elliott hasn't had a game of 100 yards rushing or more in any game this season. Elliott has just one rush of 20 yards or more this season, which is the only 20-plus yard run by Dallas this year. He has also fumbled five times with three of those fumbles being recovered by the defense.

Despite Elliott's struggles, the Steelers' defense still knows he's the focal point of the Cowboys' offense and their first priority will be to stop the run, something they didn't do very well last week against the Baltimore Ravens, allowing 265 yards rushing and 5.6 yards per carry.

"It's always a little bit different when you have an unknown situation, especially at such a crucial position, at the quarterback," T.J. Watt said via Teresa Varley of "We know the offense goes through No. 21 (Elliott). That is going to be first and foremost what we have to do. Not only because that is what we have to do every week, but because he is a special back and we feel like the offense is going to go through him, especially with a young quarterback. It's always going to be smash the run first."

- The Cowboys rank last in the league this year in points allowed per game (33.3) and are also 32nd in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (170.9). Expect James Conner to rush over 100 yards against this Dallas defense. Conner has rushed for 100 yards or more in three games this year and has scored five touchdowns. Conner also had over 100 total yards from scrimmage against the Titans in Week 7. The Cowboys have been better in pass defense, allowing 214 yards per game, which ranks eighth in the league. But they have allowed 18 touchdown passes, which is the third-most in the league. The Steelers rank fifth in points per game (30.1) and have scored at least 26 points in every game this season.

- The Cowboys have scored just 22 points since Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 against the Rams. Surprisingly, the Cowboys still rank first in pass offense in the league heading into Week 8, but that's thanks to Prescott throwing for 450 yards or more in three games up until he got injured.

- The Steelers lead the league in sacks with 30 through seven games this season and will be going up against an injury-riddled Cowboys' offensive line who have allowed 10 sacks in their last two games. On the season, the Cowboys' offensive line has allowed 24 sacks, which is the fifth-most in the league. T.J. Watt should have a huge game on Sunday as he'll be going up against undrafted rookie free agent right tackle Terence Steele.

- The Cowboys rank last in the league this year in turnover differential at minus-11 with seven takeaways and a league-high 18 giveaways, 11 of those being fumbles. The Steelers are plus-5 in turnover differential this season with 13 takeaways and eight giveaways. The Steelers rank third in interceptions this year with 10.

- Tyson Alualu (knee) did not practice all week and is out for Sunday's game. Mike Hilton (shoulder) and Stefen Wisniewski (pectoral) were both limited at practice today and are doubtful for the game. Vance McDonald, who missed practice today with an illness, is listed as questionable.

Isaiah Buggs (knee) was limited at practice yesterday but was a full participant today. Buggs is not on the status report. With Alualu ruled out, Buggs will fill in at nose tackle.

Cowboys' running back Ezekiel Elliott (hamstring) was limited at practice Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Defensive end Aldon Smith (knee) and linebacker Joe Thomas (wrist) are also listed as questionable. Smith was limited and Thomas was a full participant on Friday. Punter Chris Jones has an abdomen injury and was put on injured reserve on Wednesday. Hunter Niswander will fill in at punter, who the Cowboys signed last week to the practice squad. According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys are preparing to be without Elliott on Sunday. Cowboys' head coach Mike McCarthy said Elliott will have a pregame workout.

- The Steelers announced today that they've added linebackers Avery Williamson and Jayrone Elliott to the 53-man roster. In a corresponding move, the Steelers released running back Trey Edmunds and guard/center Stefan Wisniewski. The Steelers also elevated safety Antoine Brooks Jr. to the 53-man roster from the practice squad and signed defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas to the practice squad.

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