The title "America's Team" is seemingly on the line when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15. All of the history and rivalry between these two teams is as rampant as ever, but that's not all that's on the line for these two 7-6 teams.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw gas on the fire with his comments about each team's title, calling Pittsburgh the "World's Team." I doubt Dallas or Pittsburgh cares about that title with the playoffs on the line Sunday. It's win or go home for Dallas, which now sees a slew of other teams ahead of it in the NFC race.
Pittsburgh can stumble and still have a chance—it still has a head-to-head game with Cincinnati that will likely decide the division. Still, Mike Tomlin's team can't falter on the road after doing so last week against San Diego, a very winnable game against a downtrodden opponent.
It's tradition versus reputation in this matchup of long-time rivals, and we've got you covered with everything Steelers-Cowboys before these two franchises kick it off on Sunday afternoon.
When: Dec. 16 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: Cowboys Stadium; Arlington, Texas
Watch: CBS; NFL Sunday Ticket (Live Stream)
Spread: Pittsburgh -2 (according to Bovada)
Dallas has won its last three games at home against AFC opponents but typically plays worse at home than on the road against good teams. Pittsburgh is 12-2 in its last 14 against NFC opponents, so something has to give.
On a neutral field, the Steelers would get a five-point advantage, so it's tough to pick Dallas in any situation where they would be outnumbered big elsewhere. Still, you never know which Dallas team might show up. It's a close week, so pick your outright winner rather than go off the spread itself.
Which spread combo are you taking?
Over/Under: 44 (according to Bovada)
After watching Pittsburgh last week against San Diego, it's hard to imagine the Steelers won't employ a physical, downhill running game to get things going on the road.
That being said, running the ball will help slow the offense of Dallas down and keep the ball out of Tony Romo's hands. That's great news for Pittsburgh as a team and bodes well for the under in this one.
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/13/12)
|DB||Troy Polamalu||Not injury related||Probable
|RB||Rashard Mendenhall||Suspension ||OUT
|DL||Jay Ratliff||Groin||Expected IR Candidate
Jay Ratliff undergoes surgery for sports hernia. Likely headed to IR, joining five other defensive starters this season.— Cowboys RapidReports (@CBSCowboys) December 13, 2012
Fantasy Big Plays
Normally Dez Bryant would be a staple in this picks, but with the receiver's hand a little banged up and Bryant not really practicing, we don't know what we'll get. Look for Dwayne Harris to be an interesting sleeper pick while Jason Witten will pick up the slack if Bryant is having trouble.
For Pittsburgh, the defense is an interesting play against a Dallas offense that hasn't turned the ball over with nearly as much frequency as the first 10 weeks of the season. Additionally, the running back committee seems to have found a stalwart in Jonathan Dwyer. Get him in your lineup as a flex/RB2.
Never count out Heath Miller, the bruising TE that seems to have a nose for the end zone. Matched up against Danny McCray or Gerald Sensabaugh, the Steelers have an advantage.
Key to Pittsburgh Win: Pound the Rock
Dallas gave up 146 yards rushing to a Bengals team that hasn't had that kind of success on the ground since Corey Dillon left in the early 2000s.
After not having much luck in Week 14, the Steelers must bounce back with their own brand of rough-and-tough football. To do that, it starts with the running game. If Pittsburgh manages 125+ total yards on the ground, they've got a more-than-good chance to win this football game.
Key to Dallas Win: Find a Competitive Balance
DeMarco Murray is back at the same time these Dallas receivers are a little banged up, which is great news for an offense that has struggled to run the ball effectively all season.
You never know which Dallas line will show up, so the Cowboys may be playing two-minute offense all game if Murray can't get things going. To win against Pittsburgh's extremely disciplined and veteran defense, Jason Garrett must keep the opponent off balance.
If he can't, expect Romo to be running for his life all afternoon.
With the playoffs in sight and the Cowboys needing to stay alive to lose out in Week 17, Pittsburgh drops the ball late and Dan Bailey is the hero yet again. Pittsburgh nurses up for Cincinnati in what's a must-win in Week 16.
Dallas 17, Pittsburgh 16
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team and the lead writer for the Dallas Mavericks page.