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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys: Preview & Prediction

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 09:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a victory during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 9, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Cowboys defeated the Bengals 20-19.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
John Grieshop/Getty Images
Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 15, 2012

It's America's Team vs. the World's Team. Or something like that. All that really matters when the Dallas Cowboys host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a matchup that contains 11 Super Bowl victories and 16 Super Bowl appearances is that both venerable franchises are desperate.

Here's a final preview of Pittsburgh-Dallas from the Cowboys' perspective, along with a prediction.

 

What Dallas must do to win, offensive edition: Stay patient and keep it on the ground. Dez Bryant isn't healthy and the Steelers have the league's best pass defense. 

 

What Dallas must do to win, defensive edition: Get a natural pass rush against Ben Roethlisberger and lend a hand to the secondary against a loaded group of receivers. 

 

How Dallas can lose: By making classic Dallas mistakes and by letting a depleted defense get exposed by Pittsburgh's stacked offense. 

 

Five most important non-quarterbacks: Miles Austin, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne

Austin might have to step it up with Bryant struggling with that index finger fracture. Ware and Spencer are always so crucial to the front seven and will have to carry the shorthanded defense. Carr and Claiborne have been inconsistent and will have their hands full with Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. 

 

Injury analysis, Cowboys edition: What a disaster. Jay Ratliff is out for the season, joining Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Barry Church, Kenyon Coleman and Orlando Scandrick on defense alone. Plus, Bryant's likely to play hurt, top guard Nate Livings is questionable and so is Ware. Expect those guys to play, but few teams are in worse shape than the Cowboys from this perspective. 

 

Injury analysis, Steelers edition: Roethlisberger should be in better shape this week than he was in his first game back against San Diego. But Pittsburgh's superb pass defense will be without Ike Taylor again, and maybe even Cortez Allen, who's been great in slot coverage. Without him, Austin could be in for a big day.

 

B/R NFC East Blog prediction: Pittsburgh's desperate right now, and while it hung in there against Cincinnati, I still don't trust the depleted Cowboys defense right now. Dallas has a great opportunity here, but when was the last time this team actually delivered when we've said that?

Steelers 24, Cowboys 17

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