The Cowboys are hosting the 7-0 Steelers on Sunday afternoon and to say that expectations are low would be an understatement. Dallas will be starting their fourth different quarterback this season in former AAF star Garrett Gilbert. Not only will he be going up against T.J. Watt and this dominant defense with a porous offensive line, but Gilbert could also be doing so without Ezekiel Elliott.
Oh, and the Cowboys are double-digit underdogs for only the second home game in the Super Bowl era. So this is shaping up to be a really terrible game for Cowboys fans to watch. Not surprisingly, our writers are not enthusiastic either.
When Pittsburgh has the ball
Play these receivers tight
The Steelers are definitely happy to have Ben Roethlisberger back, and the return of the 38-year-old quarterback has no doubt contributed to their 7-0 start to the season. But this offense ranks in the middle of most statistical categories; they’re not overly explosive, but they do have some talented receivers in Juju Smith-Schuster and rookie Chase Claypool, as well as tight end Eric Ebron.
Big Ben currently ranks dead last in time to throw and seventh from the bottom in intended air yards. In other words, he’s been getting the ball out of his hand very quickly on short throws to these pass-catchers. If the Cowboys defense is going to stop this unit - and they’ll have to in order to help their offense - they’ll need to play up tight on these receivers and throw off Big Ben’s rhythm.
When Dallas has the ball
The Cowboys very nearly pulled off the upset last week against the Eagles with their highly unorthodox offensive gameplan, and average quarterback play from Ben DiNucci very well could have put them over the edge. Garrett Gilbert may or may not be better than DiNucci, but he’s definitely playing against a significantly better defense.
Ezekiel Elliott’s absence would only further complicates things, so Kellen Moore might as well try everything in his bag of tricks once again. What else do the have to lose? The normal gameplan of airing things out or relying on Zeke probably won’t work. So let’s get weird again, and maybe it’ll go better this time around.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
I mean what could go possibly go wrong when the only remaining undefeated team with a destructive defense shows up to play against an offense with an second-string offensive line protecting a TBD fourth-string quarterback? Good teams with good coaches find a way to at least be competitive, but there will be none of that on Sunday.
Expect the Steelers to dominate from the get-go watching James Conner be a goner and chasing Chase Claypool. And then by the second quarterback when the game is out of reach, that’s when T.J. Watt and defense punish whomever is throwing passes. Maybe it’s Cooper Rush. Maybe it’s Garrett Gilbert. Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Throw in some laughable defensive touchdowns and the let the rout ensue.
Steelers 44, Cowboys 0.
Game prediction? The Cowboys are likely to get stomped into the ground. If they stay within three touchdowns of the Steelers, it will be a minor achievement. There might be some games down the road they will have a shot at eking out a win, but this one is out of reach. Look, I would whoop and holler like crazy if Dallas pulls off the upset of the season.
But we are going into the game with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. The offensive line still has Terence Steele at RT. Zeke is nursing a hamstring, and that should depress just about anyone who has been following the team for a while. Meanwhile, the defense showed some signs of life last week, but they are not facing Carson Wentz this time.
Steelers 31, Cowboys 3
This game isn’t going to be for the faint of heart as the undefeated Steelers are going to beat the Cowboys pretty easily this weekend. At this point I don’t see any way that the Cowboys patchwork offensive line will be able to handle the stout run defense and speedy pass rushers of the Steelers. Now you also have a hamstring injury for Ezekiel Elliott that may hinder his effectiveness in the game.
I’m not sure the Cowboys have much on defense to stop the running game or the passing game of the Steelers either. The Cowboys defense showed flashes last week but that was also against an Eagles offense that was dealing with injuries along the offensive line and at the skill positions. With that said I have the Steelers winning this game.
Steelers 38, Cowboys 13
Turn out the lights, the parties over. Last Sunday in Philly, the Cowboys competitive season came to an end. This week, the Cowboys face the NFL’s only unbeaten team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh has arguably the best defense in the NFL, so this ones going to get ugly. No matter who starts at QB, I don’t see Dallas scoring any real points. They do find the end zone, but Pittsburgh wins this one with ease.
Give me the Steelers, 27-10
This is going to be tough to watch. The Steelers are the best team in football and the Cowboys are... well, they’re not. On some level it’s going to be poetic justice watching T.J. Watt tee off against poor Terence Steele, as the Cowboys will get to see just how badly they messed up by passing on him.
On another level, though, it’ll be painful watching this undermanned offense be ripped to shreds. Maybe the defense will continue to look better, which would be nice, but even at their best this defense isn’t good enough to pitch a shutout against an offense like this. I’m optimistic that the offense can finally get a touchdown again, but that still won’t cut it.
Steelers 38, Cowboys 10