Cowboys prepare to be without Ezekiel Elliott (hamstring) vs. Steelers - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
It’s a possibility that Ezekiel Elliott will miss his first game ever due to injury. The Cowboys are preparing to be without Ezekiel Elliott this weekend.
There is a real chance the three-time Pro Bowl running back will be unavailable Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of last week’s game, limiting his involvement throughout the practice week.
On Saturday, it elevated rookie fullback Sewo Olonilua from the practice squad. He provides more backfield depth in the event Elliott is inactive. Tony Pollard would start and see the majority of touches. Rico Dowdle, an undrafted rookie who has played three offensive snaps all season, would mix in, too.
An argument can be made that it is in the Elliott’s and the Cowboys’ best interest for Elliott not to play.
Pollard is a highly capable backup. Hamstring ailments are inherently tricky, needing to be handled delicately so that a short-term issue doesn’t become a longer-term one. This is the final game before the bye week. Keeping him sidelined Sunday would allow extra recovery time before the next game, Nov. 22 at the Minnesota Vikings.
Well, the mystery is over. The Cowboys have decided on a starting quarterback for today’s game.
Gilbert, who was signed off the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad on Oct. 12, will be making his first NFL start and his first start of any kind since playing for the Orlando Apollos of the defunct Alliance of American Football in 2019. He entered the league in 2014 with the St. Louis Rams and has spent time with the New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Browns.
With the struggles of rookie Ben DiNucci in last week’s 23-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and the placing of Andy Dalton on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, coach Mike McCarthy was determined to have a more experienced quarterback against the undefeated Steelers.
McCarthy was looking for more command of the operation than what DiNucci, a seventh-round pick, displayed.
Chris Jones injury in Dallas: Cowboys to work out former All-Pro punter Marquette King after Week 9 - Patrik Walker, CBS Sports
With Chris Jones out, the Cowboys are still exploring different options at punter. Marquette King is looking for a job in the NFL, and he might’ve just found one.
Things have completely unraveled for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, and in large part due to an onslaught of injuries that now includes starting punter Chris Jones. The veteran has been nursing what was an undisclosed injury for much of the season and, in surprising fashion, head coach Mike McCarthy revealed this week that Jones would miss multiple games due to a core muscle injury that will require surgery to repair. And with that, the team has a vacancy at the position, which is where King might come in.
For now, the nod goes to former XFL standout Hunter Niswander, whom the team signed recently to the practice squad as insurance against Jones’ injury, and that’s who’ll get the start against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9.
The draft mistake that just won’t go away.
1. T.J. Watt. This will be the first time the Cowboys face the standout pass rusher since they decided to draft Taco Charlton over him with the 28th pick in the 2017 draft. Watt went 30th to the Steelers. According to multiple reports, Watt’s family had been wearing Cowboys hats at their home when Watt received his draft call because they thought he was headed to Dallas. Watt has been named to the past two Pro Bowls and earned first-team All-Pro honors last season. The Cowboys released Charlton in September 2019.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged Friday that the team would like to have that pick back.
“You always do that if you’re truthful and you’re honest,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “The harder part of that is he was in serious contention. I think the biggest issue was we were playing a 4-3 (defensive scheme) there with Rod (Marinelli) and Rod was concerned about how he’d hold up against the run in the 4-3; didn’t have that same concern with Taco. Obviously, if you had that to do all over again, I wish we would have done that. And of course, he would fit in probably better in some of the things we’re trying to do now with Coach (Mike) Nolan and our defense. So you know, he’s obviously a great player. He’s already on his way to a great career, not unlike his brother, and congratulate the Steelers for getting him.”
The Playmaker put the Cowboys new head coach on blast.
Irvin doesn’t want to hear the excuses, however. Mike McCarthy’s off to a rough start with the Cowboys and Irvin was quick to acknowledge that fact, and put some fans in their place.
(You judge him) the same way you look at (San Francisco 49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan and judging him. He’s doing a hell of a job with the injuries he’s had,” Irvin said, via the ‘Shan and RJ show’ on 105.3 the fan. “The same way we look at (Pittsburgh Steelers head coach) Mike Tomlin last year and judged him. He did a hell of a job with his fifth quarterback. That’s what we do, we expect to see something, OK?”
Nobody believes the Cowboys have much of a chance to win, but if they were to pull off the upset, how would it go down?
The Cowboys will win if…
The Cowboys will chalk up a win if they play their best game of the season on each side of the ball. The defense must play with great energy and effort while matching the toughness and physicality of the Steelers. The Cowboys’ defense must be able to withstand the haymakers thrown from a physical offense and respond by pummeling their opponent with big hits at every turn. From a tactical standpoint, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan must determine whether to bring pressure or play coverage against Roethlisberger. The quick-rhythm nature of the Steelers’ passing game makes it nearly impossible to get home on blitzes but sitting back and letting the veteran carve up a soft defense with dink-and-dunk passes is a recipe for disaster.
On offense, the Cowboys must find a way to run the football against a defense that is intent on slowing down Ezekiel Elliott. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore must stubbornly stick with the run to protect his inexperienced quarterbacks and offensive line. If the Cowboys are forced to throw the ball 40-plus times against a high-pressure defense with a knack for racking up sacks and turnovers, the game will quickly spiral out of control. That said, the Cowboys will need to take a few downfield shots to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb to exploit the most vulnerable part of the Steelers’ defense, but utilizing max protection on those throws will be required. The Cowboys face long odds pulling off an upset against the NFL’s only unbeaten team but a ball-control offense and big-play defense could help them walk away with a win.
The staff over at the Mothership share with us what’s in their gut for today’s game.
Nick Eatman: Of all the factors people use to make football picks for a specific game, I just can’t see any of them that remotely favor the Cowboys. The Steelers offense looks too balanced to have any problems with this struggling defense. The Steelers defense should have a field day against an offense that isn’t balanced and is starting a quarterback that wasn’t on an NFL roster just a month ago. Coaching staff? The Cowboys have a first-year staff while the Steelers have Mike Tomlin and three coordinators who have all been there at least three seasons together. Momentum? The Cowboys have lost three in a row while the Steelers haven’t lost a game this year. This is one of the worst teams in the NFL against the best team. And if that’s not enough, the Cowboys certainly won’t have a home-field advantage in any way. Those yellow towels won’t be the only “terrible” thing for the Cowboys on Sunday. I’d like to see them slow this game down and try run the ball the way they did to open the third quarter in Philly. There will be time to take shots down the field and maybe throw in some more trick plays. But at the end of the day, the Steelers are just too good. I’ll take Pittsburgh, 31-12.
A final analysis and score prediction.
This game screams letdown for Pittsburgh after a huge win last week. As mentioned above it’s also their third straight road contest. Still, Dallas is going to struggle no matter who is under center, especially if Ezekiel Elliott is limited in any way by the hamstring injury he suffered this past Sunday night. This may be a one- or two-score game at halftime, but Pittsburgh eventually blows past the Cowboys for an easy win.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Cowboys 10
More score predictions.
Todd Brock (5-3): Steelers 31, Cowboys 10
Cooper Rush… The Nooch… Garrett Gilbert… Gilbert Gottfried… does it really matter who the Cowboys line up under center against undefeated Pittsburgh? You don’t need to have watched the Steelers for very long at all this season to see that they’re light-years ahead of where the Cowboys are, top to bottom. Last week’s at-least-we-didn’t-get-annihilated loss may have felt like “a step in the right direction,” but remember, it came against the decimated and mistake-prone Eagles. Handing the Steelers their first loss of 2020 would be a quantum leap too mind-boggling to even imagine. The Cowboys would need multiple playmakers to have their best game of the season (by a mile)… AND count on most of Mike Tomlin’s squad- after knocking off Baltimore and Tennessee- to have completely written off their trip to Arlington as a scrimmage-caliber formality as they enter a soft three-game stretch before their Ravens rematch. Let’s be real: no way do both of those things happen on Sunday.
Good or bad, the Cowboys still draw a lot of media coverage as they’ll nationally televised throughout most of the country (map courtesy of 506 Sports).