The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their preseason with a 16-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Thursday in Canton, Ohio.
A 29-yard field goal by Hunter Niswander was the only tally of the first quarter and gave the Cowboys a 3-0 lead.
Kalen Ballage put the Steelers ahead at the 10:48 mark of the third quarter. Sam Sloman missed the point-after attempt but connected on a 48-yard field goal that allowed Pittsburgh to take a 9-3 advantage into the final frame.
A five-yard touchdown pass from Joshua Dobbs to Tyler Simmons opened up some breathing room in the fourth quarter.
This was the first preseason game of any kind in the NFL since August 2019 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 slate. Even though the teams combined for just 597 yards, NFL fans are undoubtedly happy to see football back.
Mason Rudolph, QB, PIT: 6-of-9, 84 yards, one fumble
Dwayne Haskins, QB, PIT: 8-of-13, 54 yards; two carries, four yards
Najee Harris, RB, PIT: seven carries, 22 yards; one reception, three yards
Garrett Gilbert, QB, DAL: 9-of-13, 104 yards
Canada Provides Early Glimpse of New-Look Offense
The Steelers decided against renewing the contract of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and promoted Matt Canada as his replacement. Canada worked with the team last year as quarterbacks coach, but this was the first game in which his imprint on the offense could be seen.
Things will obviously be a little different once Ben Roethlisberger is under center, but the unit already looks to be trying out some new things.
Without a clear succession plan in place, the battle to be Pittsburgh's backup quarterback could have implications beyond this year given the general uncertainty over Roethlisberger's long-term future.
Mason Rudolph struggled during his run as the starter with Big Ben injured in 2019 and only made one start in 2020.
The 2018 third-round pick started 3-of-3 before a miscommunication with Chase Claypool led to a fumble in the first quarter.
Rookie <a href="https://twitter.com/MicahhParsons11?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MicahhParsons11</a> is a football magnet. Fumble recovery! <a href="https://twitter.com/dallascowboys?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dallascowboys</a> <br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/ProFootballHOF?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ProFootballHOF</a> Game on FOX <a href="https://t.co/MHOQDh1MlK">pic.twitter.com/MHOQDh1MlK</a>
It was an otherwise solid outing for Rudolph. Dwayne Haskins may nonetheless be stiff competition as he grows more comfortable in the offense.
The reps afforded to Rudolph and Haskins and their respective performances are likely to be one of the biggest storylines of Pittsburgh's preseason.
Parsons Makes First Impression
MIcah Parsons opted out of the 2020 season, so his last competitive game for Penn State was was the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 28, 2019. The 2021 first-round pick showed little rust Thursday night.
Parsons was in the right place at the right time to recover the botched pitch by Rudolph, and that summed up a first quarter in which he seemed to be all over the field for Dallas.
The dynamic linebacker should make an immediate impact on a defense that allowed 386.4 yards per game.
Dak Prescott is still dealing with a shoulder injury, but Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported the Cowboys expect him to be available in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
One thing is clear about the team's quarterback situation: Garrett Gilbert has the No. 2 job on lock.
That isn't to say Cowboys fans are likely to feel any more confident in Gilbert if he were pressed into starting duty to open the regular season.
The Steelers are back in action on Aug. 12 on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first official week of the 2021 preseason. The Cowboys face off with the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 13.