Steelers vs. Cowboys: 5 Keys to the Game for Dallas

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIDecember 14, 2012

Steelers vs. Cowboys: 5 Keys to the Game for Dallas

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    The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers are old-time NFL rivals and are meeting for the first time since 2008. Big D is in desperate need of a victory against its cross-conference rival and will need to accomplish certain goals within the game to get it.

    The Steelers have had some downfalls recently, but that doesn't make them any less of a formidable team. Here are the five keys to the game for the Cowboys if they want to pull out this win and better their postseason chances.

Establish the Running Game

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    The Cowboys are a different team with DeMarco Murray in the backfield, plain and simple. The team's No. 1 running back returned from injury two weeks ago and has created a more balanced offensive attack.

    Head coach Jason Garrett had quarterback Tony Romo throw the ball 62 times against Washington the week before Murray's return. The Cowboys lost that Thanksgiving Day game.

    When Murray returned the following week against Philadelphia, Romo threw the ball 27 times. The team ran the ball 23 times with Murray in that same contest. Dallas won that game.

    Garrett can call a balanced offense, but he needs to be motivated to do so with positive results in the run game, or he reverts back to passing every down.

    Murray needs to get off to a hot start and motivate his coach to keep giving him the rock.

Rattle Ben Roethlisberger

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    Last week in Roethlisberger's return from injury, the San Diego Chargers were able to sack him twice and record an interception.

    Big Ben is one of the best quarterback in the NFL today, but he's still starting in just his second game in a month. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes on 42 attempts in last Sunday's contest against San Diego.

    The Chargers didn't completely shut down Big Ben, considering that he threw three touchdowns, but they controlled and rattled him. Pittsburgh hasn't completely found its rushing attack yet and still rely on Big Ben for much of the offensive output.

    Dallas needs to do its best to make Roethlisberger feel hurried through blitzes and pass rushes in order to force mistakes.

Do the Best to Get Dez Bryant Involved

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    It has been reported that Dez Bryant is fully intending to play through his finger injury, and the Cowboys need to utilize him regardless of his health.

    Bryant has scored seven touchdowns in five weeks and has been a integral part of the Cowboys' success in the passing game. It's not as simple as handing DeMarco Murray the football since No. 88 has to catch the ball with that finger, but Romo must try to get him involved.

    It will become obvious early on in this contest just how effective Bryant can be with that injury, but that can't be an excuse not to target the wide receiver.

Protect Tony Romo

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    It has been a struggle all season long for the Cowboys offensive line to keep Tony Romo from having to run for his life. That struggle will continue with Pittsburgh's formidable defensive line coming to town.

    Doug Free and the makeshift line will likely get overwhelmed by James Harrison and Co., but that can't be a frequent event come Sunday.

    Romo is one of the best at making plays out of the pocket, but he probably wouldn't mind getting a few plays off without having to do so. He has thrown just three interceptions since Oct. 28, and the best way to keep that statement true after Week 15 is by making sure that Romo doesn't feel pressured.

Shut Down the Steelers' Run Game

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    The 2012 Steelers are not your father's Steelers when you consider that they rank just 25th in the NFL in rushing. The likes of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have been unable to post more than 100 yards in a contest since Nov. 4.

    The Chargers were able to hold Dwyer to under 35 yards and Redman to zero yards on two carries in Week 14. Dallas has just as good of a rushing defense as San Diego and should be able to shut down a Steelers run game that won't feature Rashard Mendenhall.

    Dwyer and Redman have just three 100-plus yard games this season, which has to have Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan feeling good about his chances to shut them down.

    The Cowboys need to force Roethlisberger to beat them and not allow a balanced attack from their opposition.