Will Mike Tomlin's Steelers leave Dallas undefeated?
The Dallas Cowboys host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that will not inspire memories of their previous Super Bowl meetings unless you root for the road team. Back in 2016, Dallas beat Pittsburgh 35-30 in Heinz Field in a crazy game that saw four lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. Ezekiel Elliott had 209 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the win, while Le'Veon Bell had two touchdowns in the loss.
The Steelers (7-0) are coming off a 28-24 road win in Baltimore as they forced several Lamar Jackson turnovers and harassed him at every turn into four sacks. Pittsburgh got a workmanlike effort from Ben Roethlisberger, who went 21-for-32 for 182 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. If you wanted to nitpick the game, you could say their run game was disappointing, averaging just three yards per carry on 16 totes of the football.
The Cowboys are going in the other direction as "Sunday Night Football" gave the nation a chance to realize Ben DiNucci is not ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Despite the multiple mentions of DiNucci and Patrick Mahomes in the same sentence by the broadcasters, he went 21-for-40 for 180 yards in the loss to the Eagles. Dallas has now scored 22 points during their current three-game losing streak and sits at 2-6 overall as the bye week approaches.
Pittsburgh at Dallas
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 8 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Steelers -13.5
Three Things to Watch
There are a couple of situations to watch with the Steelers. First off, this is their third straight road game with the first one being at Tennessee two weeks ago. Sometimes all this travel gets to teams in that third game. Also, one has to wonder what Pittsburgh's mindset is after a huge win over a division rival. The Steelers are undefeated and Dallas is still a big-time opponent at least as far name brand goes, but could there be a letdown against the Cowboys' fourth-string quarterback? After Dallas, Pittsburgh has games against Cincinnati (home) and Jacksonville (road), so no real look-ahead factor at play here. Meanwhile, Dallas has its bye next week and the way this season has gone, the Cowboys could be looking forward to that more than playing this game.
2. Wait, who is under center for Dallas?
The Cowboys will be sending their fourth different QB to the huddle on Sunday as Garrett Gilbert was named the starter over Cooper Rush. Andy Dalton was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week (while still recovering from a concussion) and Ben DiNucci was benched after his woeful performance this past Sunday night against Philadelphia.
A sixth-round pick by the Rams in the 2014 draft, Gilbert bounced around the practice squads of several teams during his first five years in the NFL before appearing in one game (2-for3 for 40 yards) in 2018 for Carolina. After that, he was selected in the Alliance of American Football's (AAF) quarterback draft by the Orlando Apollos, who were coached by Steve Spurrier. Gilbert thrived in the new league, which debuted in February 2019, but the AAF suspended operations after eight games. Shortly after, Gilbert signed with Cleveland and he went on to appear in five games (0-for-3 passing, -3 rushing yards). Gilbert remained with the Browns and was on their practice squad this season until Dallas signed him in mid-October following Dak Prescott's season-ending injury.
Now on Sunday, he will make his first NFL start and will have to face the league's fifth-ranked defense (sixth against the pass). Additionally, Gilbert will probably have to make do without Ezekiel Elliott, who may sit out this game because of a hamstring injury. The Cowboys called up Sewo Olonilua from the practice squad on Saturday, casting further doubt on Elliott being active. With a bye in Week 10, it certainly stands to reason that Dallas will choose to hold Elliott out so he can heal completely. Either way, it certainly seems like the Steelers are getting the Cowboys at the right time.
3. Can it be this easy?
The Dallas defense has been awful this year, although it looked competent against the Eagles at times last week. Still, the Cowboys have allowed 30-plus points five times this season. The defensive line doesn't get enough pressure while the secondary constantly struggles with formation breakdowns. The unit is getting a little bit healthier with first Leighton Vander Esch and now Sean Lee's return at linebacker, but it could just be the system Mike Nolan runs not fitting the personnel. Pittsburgh's offense has put up 26 points or more in every contest this season as Big Ben is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He'll have his pick of targets as his wide receivers should have the advantages out wide against Dallas' porous coverage.
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 also misses this game. 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
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.