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Cowboys @ Steelers: Staff Preview And Score Predictions

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The Star News - Cowboys @ Steelers: Staff Preview And Score Predictions

The Dallas Cowboys are in Pennsylvania ready to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in what a whole generation of Cowboys fans consider to be an NFL-ancient rivalry. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the Cowboys and Steelers fought to best each other year after year, going head-to-head on more than one occasion in the sport's greatest game, the Super Bowl.

A number of you may relate more with Inside The Star Staff Writer, Sean Martin, as he was literally born while the Cowboys beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. He's turned that into a lifelong passion for football and America's Team.

Others still are more like myself (Bryson Treece, in case any were wondering)...

In my house growing up, the Cowboys were the team to root for, for all but one member of my family. I was just a kid then, but hearing my grandmother tell my uncle Johnny (in-law) his Steelers were nothing as the sound of their banter mixed with the aroma of Thanksgiving dinner is a memory I'll never forget.

Today's game is nowhere near as dramatic as some in the past, but these two teams each have something on the line today.

For the Cowboys, it's an eighth win in a row behind the most unexpected quarterback ever to step foot on a football field. Like Jon Favreau's character in the movie Rudy, attending the Fighting Irish's first game with a first-time-dressed Rudy Ruettiger, fans of Dallas have been screaming in glee. Only we're saying "He's so green!" instead of "He's so little!"

After seven straight wins, no one can deny the improbability of Dak Prescott.

He not only out-plays his rookie status, but he's made his way into the starting lineup of a team who had no room for him at the top when training camp started. From being the eighth QB selected in the 2016 NFL Draft to practicing badly all summer, from dazzling in preseason to being thrown into the fire with the first-team Seahawks when Tony Romo went down, from a nail-biter against the New York Giants in week one to being the single most impressive -- and winning -- rookie QB in Cowboys history through eight games...

No one can deny the improbability of Dak Prescott, nor his importance to this team. And once you get past the surprise, you get to the league's best offensive line and best running back, who is also a rookie.

It's so difficult to remain calm about these Cowboys when Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott take to the field each Sunday afternoon. The excitement has the nation -- and not just Cowboys Nation -- buzzing about playoffs and the Super Bowl just barely  midway through the season.

The Cowboys are fighting today for legitimacy. They got some against the Bengals, and some more against the Packers, and even managed to earn some against the Browns to the tune of 35-10 in a game they were already supposed to win.

Now it's time for the next hurdle; Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For the Steelers, today's game is just as important. Roethlisberger's return from injury last week was less than stellar, to say the least, but it was what most expected, his first game back. At his age, rust can set in with just a single week off. But he's freshly polished and ready to face the 'Boys.

The Steelers are at home, and they're 4-4 on the season. They need a win today and, in their 32nd meeting together, any sense of rivalry they feel toward the Dallas Cowboys has to take a backseat to the prospect of failing under .500.

It's the home-stretch, and Coach Tomlinson isn't going to be happy settling for dropping to 4-5 at home.

The last time the Cowboys were in Pittsburgh was in 2008, in the snow, with Tony Romo under center. It was a thriller for us all to watch the still fresh -- at the time -- Romo take on the Steelers, regardless of the outcome.

And now, let's take a look at what our team at Inside The Star is looking for from this latest dive into the land of Terrible Towels.

Brian Martin | @Bmart0204

The historic rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be talked about at length, and because of that, a lot of people are predicting a close, hard-fought game. I, however, think the Cowboys can once again dominate in all three phases the game.

That's due in large to the fact the Steelers are decimated by injuries, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

I predict the Cowboys will continue to run the ball and control the time of possession. It's worked so far, so why change things up?

Cowboys 28 – Steelers 17

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John Williams | @John9williams

The Dallas Cowboys are playing as well as anyone on both sides of the football. They compliment each other quite well.

The offense goes on long drives that eat up a lot of clock and keep the defense rested on the sideline. The defense doesn't give up big plays and holds teams to field goals.

This week will be decided on the health of Ben Roethlisberger and the Dallas defense's ability to contain Antonio Brown. Le'Veon Bell is going to get his yards, but as long as he doesn't gash them for big plays, the Dallas Cowboys do enough to win.

Cowboys 27 – Steelers 21

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Kevin Brady | @Kevinbrady88

They have to lose again at some point, right? This is a tough matchup for a Cowboys team missing their best corner and starting strong safety as the Steelers have a hungry Antonio Brown and Big Ben back healthy.

This will be a tight game throughout, especially since the Cowboys will be able to run the ball effectively. In the end, however, the Cowboys give Ben too much time for a game winning drive, and lose for the first time in seven games.

Cowboys 23 – Steelers 27

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Justin Grohowski | @Grohowknowhow

The Pittsburgh Steelers need this game a lot more than the Cowboys do. Add in the fact that they're home and coming off a bad performance by Big Ben, and this will be a tough one to get for Dallas.

With a banged up secondary, I expect the Steelers' explosive offense to hit its stride through the air. The Dallas offense will hang tough, and this game will live up to the hype.

Dallas falls on a Pittsburgh field goal as time expires.

Cowboys 28 – Steelers 31

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Jess Haynie | @CowboysAddicts

Pittsburgh's big-play offense could wreak havoc on a Dallas secondary missing Morris Claiborne and Barry Church. The Cowboys could win time-of-possession but still lose this game, if Ben Roethlisberger gets hot.

At home and desperate to stay above .500, I think the Steelers win a close one.

Cowboys 27 – Steelers 31

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Ian Koplowitz | @BleedingTheStar

This game has the makings of a shootout. I fear that losing Morris Claiborne and Barry Church will really hurt our ability to contain Pittsburgh's aerial attack.

Having said that, I like our odds running the ball, and the Steelers secondary is very suspect. I look for Dan Bailey to come through at the end of a nail-biter.

Cowboys 24 – Steelers 23

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Sean Martin | @ShoreSportsNJ

If there were still any Ezekiel Elliott doubters following the Cowboys during this seven game winning streak, there won't be after today - as he carries this team to their eighth win in a row. In what will be a wild high-scoring affair, the Steelers will fail to shut down Elliott, opening up Dak Prescott and the passing game to out-score Pittsburgh on the road.

Cowboys 35 – Steelers 33

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Bryson Treece | @BrysonTreece

The Steelers have a knack for upsetting the Cowboys. It goes back generations and continues to this day. A few of my colleagues are predicting that the inevitability of a second loss will bite the 'Boys but I have my doubts.

The Cowboys are hungry. Even at 7-1, they're playing like it's 1-7. They're young and energized behind some awfully impressive leadership from Dak Prescott, and no, not just for a rookie. Seasoned vets rarely lead a team the way Prescott has led your Dallas Cowboys, and it's resulting in check after check in the win column.

Even still, I believe the Cowboys will struggle today. I believe last week's route of the Browns will be a distant memory by halftime with a pick from Prescott. But, I think the Cowboys have too much momentum to let the Steelers ruin their fun for long.

Cowboys 30 – Steelers 23

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It seems every additional win brings about an equally increasing mixture of worry and pride. A few of the guys have touched on it already, and it warrants repeating, every win brings that second loss one game closer. We fear the collapse we know all too well, and we're in disbelief that this team can keep it going for much longer.

If history is any indicator, and it always is, then the very thing pinning our ears back will surely be the thing that brings us to a crashing halt... the performance of our rookies. Or so we fear, at least.

However it goes today in Pittsburgh, keep your friends close and remain positive. Be safe and GO COWBOYS!!!



This is the General Staff account for Inside The Star, a blog for Dallas Cowboys news, scores, schedule, rumors, and analysis. We are the official home for @CowboysNation on Twitter. Follow us today for new content updates straight from our timeline. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Staff listing.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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