Two of the NFL’s most storied and decorated franchises meet in a pivotal matchup Sunday as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium.
Both teams need a win to stay in the playoff hunt. Pittsburgh is vying for one of the AFC’s wild card spots and need a win to keep pace with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Cowboys are in contention for the NFC wild card and the NFC East, just one game back of the New York Giants.
Dallas came together last week after a car accident killed teammate Jerry Brown, and beat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-19 thanks to a 27-yard touchdown reception by receiver Dez Bryant and a 40-yard field goal by Dan Bailey as time expired.
Bryant fractured the middle finger of his left hand during the game, and throughout the week speculation swirled as to whether or not he would play. He is expected to test the injury Sunday, and Dallas will need his production during their final three games. Bryant has been on a tear in the Cowboys last five games, totaling seven touchdowns.
Dallas has gone 4-1 in that stretch, and quarterback Tony Romo has cut down on the interceptions that plagued him earlier this season. He’s thrown only three picks in the last six games, compared to 13 in the previous seven.
While Romo has calmed down, the Steelers are trying to work quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back into the mix.
Roethlisberger returned to the starting lineup after missing three straight games with a dislocated rib, and while he threw three touchdowns, he also committed two turnovers, and Pittsburgh lost 34-24 to the San Diego chargers last week.
The Steelers fell behind by 24 points with less than six minutes left in the third quarter, and Roethlisberger tossed all three of scores from that point on, but Pittsburgh couldn’t complete the comeback.
It was just the third time this season the Steelers top ranked defense gave up 30 or more points, and each time they have lost.
Pittsburgh's defense may struggle with cornerback Cortez Allen ruled out, but Roethlisberger will have more protection with hightly touted rookie offensive lineman David DeCastro making his first career start. DeCastro had dressed the last two games, but was limited to special teams after returning from a torn MCL.
The game begins at 4:25 p.m. EDT and will be shown by CBS, or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Pittsburgh is favored by 1.5 points
Over/Under: 44 points
Prediction: The Cowboys success will depend on how Bryant plays with his injury. He’s proven a dangerous threat, and is now living up to the hype that made him a first-round pick. However, the Steelers defense should find its form again, and Pittsburgh will come away with a tight victory.
Predicted Score: Pittsburgh 24, Dallas 17