CP Staff Writer
This is presented in context to combating the prevalent Pittsburgh high ground stance by many opposing fans and media.....
First issue-field conditions. Sunday, it is projected to be snowy and frozen. Now, unless you have just invented a new kind of grass...NO grass stands up to an extended period of freezing weather, with the addition of ice, sleet, and snow. In case you missed it....NO grass stands up to that. Here, synthetic takes the advantage of remaining to it's core characteristics. Additionally, the synthetic will be MORE responsive of the needs for the athlete, even if the same conditions are existing.....period.
Next, who has the advantage with the 'cold' weather additions to the field...well folks, this boils down to basic advantages influencing secondary actions. This is the Dallas offensive line against the Pittsburgh linebackers. Now, unless you are a homer, in cold weather, this goes to the 'advantage' of the NFL tonage chart that has them as much more hefty and BETTER in tough running turf. This applies to pass blocking as well. It slows down the speed rushing outside as well as favors the larger sized Dallas line.
Now, both teams are very solid teams and have a lot going for them. The Steelers have better overall season stats on the defensive side, but they don't enter the picture in comparison to the effectiveness that the Cowboys have on offense. That doesn't mean that the Steelers don't have any sting, they do...but they are at best-AVERAGE.
That stated, you still must beforehand, consider factors:
Turnovers affect the game, but here, there is DIRECTION-although relatively effective, Pittsburgh's QB has much more consistent turnovers than does Tony Romo. Weather affects this for all teams, but across the board...Romo is much more efficient at delivering on target. With the cast coming off of Romo, he will be even better at delivering all types of throws.
On the Dallas side, this team has over the return of Romo, started to gain an advantage in the turnover count per game. The Dallas defense has started to get interceptions, create fumbles, and the offense has greatly reduced their own fumbles or blown passes that result in 'give-away' interceptions also.
These aspects can go either way in a particular game, and affect end results...this is football.
Next, you have tendencies on respective teams, to include running the ball, passing the ball, and special team's play....here, Pittsburgh has a good running game, that matches up against a team that has grown much stronger at stopping the run. Both teams have primary running backs that carry an injury veil. Both teams have capable backups, but Pittsburgh Moore is lighter in nature than that of the Dallas Choice. Choice is a 'rook' recasting of Marion Barber. On a 'bad' field, this should swing slightly to the advantage of Dallas. Don't kid yourself on the Dallas run defense now...it has got a lot tougher, with the elevated play of a rotation of defensive ends that are hefty for a 3-4 defense.
The difference here, when you flip sides on this same issue, is that the much larger and very talented Dallas interior line, now works on 'lighter' defensive ends in your Pittsburgh 3-4, and more easily handle them before moving onto your much lighter linebackers...in 'bad' weather again, this will lean towards the advantage of a Dallas offensive line. This should grow some over the course of an entire game. Pittsburgh will probably resort to much more intensity and blitzes, etc. If Dallas is NOT behind, and with a MUCH MORE elusive quarterback in Tony Romo, it should be able to handle this intensity.
Pittsburgh should be very anxious concerning the addition of the 46 to the mixes during a game, that the Dallas defense now runs. It overloads the strong side of the field, and all but forces another team to run weakside...into DeMarcus Ware, or pass. But, in passing, Bradie James and Greg Ellis/ Anthony Spender are now rushing in tandem from that side of the field. If the tight end goes out in route, then Bradie James picks him up and your tackle is now head up and alone on that rusher. With this formation, it also allows for secondary blitzes to come from an unseen outside as well. Seven step drops become very hard for your quarterback to work now. With Dallas now fielding Terrence Newman, Anthony Henry, Scandrick, and Adam Jones again at cornerback, the Dallas defense will be tough to gain consistent advantage upon in a shorter and quicker passing game. Plus, the consistency for Pittsburgh quarterback to be off target then comes into play as well. Roethlisburger has his throwing inconsistencies which have proven themselves out over the course of a whole season.
Additional considerations would be starting levels for both teams from the opening whistle to half-time. If Dallas plays a sound game, then it will be tough to gain advantages that a very strong defense would add to play selection and avenues selected. Penalties is another area, in such an intensely played game as this will ultimately be. The team that keeps it's collective 'cool' better, could even have an affect on game directions as well. Here, the Dallas team has cut back it's penalties a game, to about forty yards a game for the past three games. They haven't really hurt themselves at an abnormal pace.
Then there is the special team's play. Here, Dallas has been at least consistent and improving over the course of the last three games. Field goals have been a regular addition when attempted, and even kickoffs have drifted back towards the goal line, or at least within the ten yard line when attempted. That means as a rule, field position will have to be earned more so, by Pittsburgh. Since it has shown a slight tendency for having turnovers.
This game should be equal to the top billing game for this week. Just because season record, Dallas has a single more loss, doesn't mean they give up anything coming into this game...let the better team win. In the meantime, a rush to sprinkle salt upon the tail of a roadrunner projection of a 'soft' team, is pure ignorance and not all indicated by present records.