It’s Friday, so that means it’s time to talk to the blog of the Cowboys opponent. This week, with Dallas visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers for a showdown at Heinz Field, we ask some questions of Behind The Steel Curtain.
Blogging The Boys: What the status of Ben Roethlisberger? Last week he seem to struggle; was it his knee, rust, or something else?
Behind The Steel Curtain: It was suggested by Mike Tomlin on Tuesday that Roethlisberger could be limited in preparation for the upcoming game, but Roethlisberger has been a full participant in the first two practices of this week. In other words, he looks good to go for the Week 10 showdown between the Steelers and Cowboys. As for his poor play last week, you could chalk it up to a couple things: poor game plan, play calling and unsure about re-injury.
Even though Roethlisberger couldn't do more damage to his knee, as a limited participant leading up to kickoff, he was very uneasy on his leg for the first three quarters of the game. Combine that with a stubborn game plan, and downright horrible play calling, and you get a dud against a division rival.
BTB: Will Maurkice Pouncey play? If he doesn't how bad is that for the line, and how have they been playing in general?
BTSC: Maurkice Pouncey told the media today there is a 100-percent chance he plays Sunday. He didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday, but Tomlin said that was likely after his procedure to repair his injured thumb. Look for him to be back at practice Friday, and to play in the game Sunday. It is huge having Pouncey in the lineup, and on multiple layers. He is great at calls along the line, and his athleticism is almost unparalleled at the center position. The offensive line as a whole has been very inconsistent, especially in run blocking. They have kept Roethlisberger relatively clean, but need to do a better job opening up running lanes for Le'Veon Bell.
BTB: We're used to the Steelers defense wreaking havoc and sacking quarterbacks. Why hasn't that been happening this year?
BTSC: Everyone has their own thought on their lack of sack production, but according to Keith Butler (defensive coordinator) it is due to a very young and inexperienced secondary. The team hasn't been blitzing as much to protect the likes of Robert Golden, Artie Burns and Sean Davis playing in the back half of the defense. However, in their Week 9 loss to the Ravens, the Steelers blitzed more than they had since the Kansas City Chiefs win, and they had success. Look for them to continue to dial up the blitz against the Cowboys this Sunday...you live and die by it.
BTB: Who are some under-publicized Steelers players who the Cowboys should watch out for?
BTSC: On offense this could be the debut of Ladarius Green. The tall, fast and athletic tight end could be making his first start for the Steelers since starting the year on the PUP list. Green gives the Steelers offense a new wrinkle and dynamic they simply haven't had in decades. Green is not an Heath Miller-type tight end, but more built around the likes of Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham. Put him in the slot, and let him run wild down the seam and in the red zone. With Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell already drawing plenty of attention, Green could be the straw that broke the camel's back.
On defense it would have to be Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt has been a beast in run support from the DE position, but hasn't gotten to the quarterback yet this year. He had 6 sacks in 2015, and is due for a breakout game. Not saying it will happen in Week 10, but he is going to get home eventually.
BTB: If you were the Cowboys coaches, how would you attack the Steelers on offense and on defense.
BTSC: Attacking the Steelers isn't overly complicated. Against their offense you bracket Antonio Brown and stop the run. If you can do that, it forces someone else to have to step up. This is why Ladarius Green becomes so important, and why players like Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton will be needed to step up in a big way. However, it all starts with stopping Le'Veon Bell.
Attacking the defense would be driving the ball down field and abusing the soft zone scheme the Steelers typically deploy. With Cameron Heyward in the lineup the Steelers don't give up much on the ground, although that will be tested this week, but have been known to give up the big play down the field. Test the young defensive backs early and often for success.
Thanks for the knowledge, Behind The Steel Curtain.