The Steelers have a tough schedule coming up, all but one of their opponents have winning records and two of the four are division rivals. Of the remaining four opponents there are two of the top five defenses, one of the most explosive offenses, and one bad team whose coach only keeps his job with a miracle finish (something tells me that means beating the Steelers more than winning out).
Most of the teams in the NFL would be worried going into this stretch when more wins are needed to guarantee a playoff spot. The Steelers are not, and need not, be one of those teams.
This week we will look at the Cowboys. Tony Romo is an over-hyped quarterback who still likely has a lingering injury to his throwing hand. This will not be a good thing to have against the Steelers who will hit him hard and often. He has not done well against a consistent pass rush, and quarterbacks do not have good days when they play Pittsburgh.
The Cowboys do, however have some very talented receivers on offense. This, however did not help New England who had one of the best of all time on their team dropping balls because he was afraid to get wrecked as he landed. Terrel Owens also does not match-up well against the Steelers, with his last game against the Black and Gold coming back in 2004 when his Eagles were demolished 27-3. He did not contribute significantly to his team's three points.
The running game of the Cowboys will have to face the NFL's best defense in all major categories, allowing only 71.2 rushing yards per game. With a running back coming off of an injury in week 13, this is not a good match-up for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys also have to come to Pittsburgh, to the cold, snow, and ice to play the Steelers in "Steeler Weather." This will make passing all the more difficult, likely resulting in either the Cowboys becoming more one-dimensional toward the run, or becoming indecisive with passes as more of them are dropped and more difficult to throw. T
his indecision will result in sacks. Sacks will cause more indecision. You can see where I am going with this.
If the Steelers defense shows up, as it does week in and week out, the Cowboys will need to be perfect if they hope to win, and in Pittsburgh in December, perfection is highly improbable, if not impossible.
The Steelers offensive line also showed signs of improving last week against an admittedly weak New England defense. If the line can remain consistent, or improve further, and the Steelers keep their running game going, it will create problems for a Dallas defense who have suffered several key injuries this year; a defense that has allowed 260 points this season, 90 more than the Steelers top ranked defense.
The Cowboys with Romo have had troubles in big games, especially those in December and into the playoffs. All four of the Cowboys' losses this years have also come when they have scored fewer than 28 points. No team has scored more than 24 points against the Steelers' defense.
This game will come down to a few key factors.
First whether or not injured Cowboys players, including Barber, Ware, and Romo can play at their normal level.
Second: how the Cowboys react to the exotic looks and intense pass rush of the Steelers defense.
Thirdly, if the Steelers offense can continue to get back on track and perform at their top level with injuries to some of their key players including Roethlisberger, Parker, Miller, and the offensive line in general.
The Steelers will win this game 28-7.
As an interesting side note, the Steelers were able to hold the Patriots to 1-of-13 on third downs. The Patriots were, before last week, in the top ten in that category. If the Steelers' defense can have another performance near that level, the game will become very winnable.
Winning this game will put the Steelers in good position for the playoff race this year, and with Baltimore playing a difficult game against the Redskins it may provide the chance for a comfortable two game lead in the AFC North.