The Dallas Cowboys have had their share of ups and downs on yet another roller coaster of a season.
And as with most of their December games, this week's showdown versus the Pittsburgh Steelers will play a major role in determining the Cowboys' playoff fate.
But regardless of the outcome of the game, the Cowboys season should not go down as a failure—even though the media might portray it as such.
What follows are ten positive lessons the Cowboys can take from 2012.
They say that injuries are never an excuse but...
The injuries that the Dallas Cowboys have suffered this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, have been hard to fathom.
Safety Barry Church was gone first, and then heart-and-soul linebacker Sean Lee followed shortly thereafter.
And just when it looked like Bruce Carter was going to solve all of the lingering defensive issues, down he went.
Toss in DeMarco Murray, Jay Ratliff, Orlando Scandrick, Phil Costa, Kenyon Coleman and even punter Chris Jones, and you start to get an idea of just how much of an impediment all these injuries added up to be.
But it can't be worse in 2013...right?
The Cowboys made waves in the most recent edition of the NFL draft, by trading up to nab LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
And after starting and holding his own in every game of this 2012 season, it's safe to say that the rookie has made the Cowboys move pay off.
According to Matt Williamson of ESPN, Claiborne is one of the "few players in the league with true shut-down potential."
That type of player is worth a top draft pick and should fit in Rob Ryan's defensive scheme for years to come.
Coming into the year with talks of whether or not the Cowboys would sign Tony Romo to a contract extension, Romo opted to push the negotiations off until the offseason.
Despite and up-and-down start to the season, it has become pretty clear that the Cowboys need to re-sign Tony Romo.
Quite frankly, he's performed admirably despite one of the most porous offensive lines in the NFL.
As a team, the Cowboys still manage to rank eighth in the league in passing yards, despite the aforementioned offensive line woes.
That statistic clearly points to Romo as the glue holding the team together—not the man holding them back.
Anthony Spencer came into the season with the Cowboys giving him a franchise tag, and many wondering what his future was going to be with the organization.
Due to the extensive injury list that the Cowboys have sported this season, Spencer has proven his worth.
One of the coaches who has been constantly on and off the proverbial hot seat ever since taking the Cowboys job, Jason Garrett finally showed that he belonged as an NFL head coach with a signature victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
An emotionally depleted Cowboys team marched into a hostile Cincinnati environment and came away with a hard-fought victory.
With the season hanging in the balance, the Cowboys found themselves trailing by nine with nine minutes to play.
Then by doing what Jason Garrett preaches as "the little things," the 'Boys managed to come out on top. It was a clutch win for Garrett and the crew—a win that showed Jason Garrett belonged and that his team was finally buying into his philosophy.
While the Cowboys offensive line has been absolutely abysmal all season long, left tackle Tyron Smith has stood out as the lone bright spot.
Though he's been inconsistent at times, Smith has done a admirable job protecting Romo's blind side, and he certainly has proven to be a building block with whom the Cowboys can begin their offensive line reconstruction.
Still ranking as the most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey just keeps on doing his thing.
He flashed more of his steely nerve with his game-winning 40-yarder against the Bengals on Sunday, and he's perfect on the season from inside 50 yards.
Not too shabby for a 24-year-old. Looks like the Cowboys are set at kicker for the next decade.
The fractured finger issue that Dez Bryant has been dealing with all week has been a big issue for one reason—Bryant has been unstoppable lately.
Without Bryant on the field, the Cowboys offense would be dramatically different. His seven touchdown catches over his past five games are a telling stat to just how big a force he's become.
Though the "Dez Rules" seemed ridiculous at the beginning of the season, they do sure seem to be paying off now, don't they?
Already a pass-first offense, the absence of DeMarco Murray brought the effectiveness of the Cowboys' rushing attack to an all-time low.
But his return against the Bengals on Sunday reminded everyone just how special a player he can be.
Sure, his 21 carries for 53 yards didn't blow anyone away, but it was his big-time runs when his team needed them most that proved that a healthy DeMarco Murray is a franchise running back.
If it hadn't been for a series of unfortunate injuries, the Cowboys defense would be loving life at the linebacker position right about now.
Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, the return of All-Pro-To-Be linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee will have to wait until next season.
But based on the stellar play that both provided in 2012, the Cowboys know they will be in for something special when Lee and Carter reunite on the defensive side of the ball for the seasons to come.