F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column
Exposing differences key to Steelers’ success
If the Steelers looked in the mirror right now, they might see the Dallas Cowboys staring back at them.
The two teams are surprisingly similar.
Both have been wildly inconsistent, losing games to teams they are favored to beat and winning games in which they are underdogs.
Both have banged up defenses and offensive line issues, and neither team is particularly good at forcing turnovers. Dallas, with six interceptions, is one of the few teams that have fewer than the Steelers’ seven.
The biggest differences?
Dallas, with 29 sacks, has a slightly better pass rush than the Steelers, but Pittsburgh has an edge at quarterback.
It’s likely those last two things could be the difference in today’s game.
If the Steelers can slow outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, who have combined for 19½ of the Cowboys’ sacks, and give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger time to throw, they will win this game.
That task won’t be easy with rookies David DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum manning the right side of Pittsburgh’s offensive line.
The Steelers will try to run the ball more to slow that pass rush. With starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff and middle linebacker Sean Lee out for the Cowboys, Pittsburgh could have some success up the middle.
The Cowboys will counter by going after a secondary that is missing cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen.
Whichever team has more success with those matchups will win this game.
Both teams need the victory to remain in their respective conference playoff races. Dallas is on the outside looking in, while the Steelers need a win to keep pace with Cincinnati.
Surprisingly, the Steelers are a 1-point favorite, despite the fact Dallas has won four of its past five, including one last week at Cincinnati.
The Cowboys need this game more than the Steelers, who can lose here and still clinch a playoff spot with wins in their final two games – both of which are at home.
Take Dallas, 26-23
Patriots are kicking into high gear.
Take New England, 27-17
Falcons are in cruise control, losing their last two.
Take the Giants, 24-20
Coming off their 42-24 drubbing by the Packers in Week 6, the Texans rebounded to spank the Ravens, 43-13 the following week.
Take Houston, 43-13
The Bears are limping to the finish.
Take Green Bay, 31-17
Speaking of limping to the finish …
Take Denver, 24-20
No home field advantage for either team, which is good news for the Seahawks.
Take Seattle, 27-17
Minnesota offense is all Adrian Peterson without Percy Harvin.
Take St. Louis, 24-16
Tampa Bay is tough against the run. The Saints never run.
Take New Orleans, 31-24
The Jaguars are close to locking up the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Take Miami, 23-10
Chargers can stay in the AFC wildcard race with a win.
Take San Diego, 31-27
Hard to believe the Cardinals were once 4-0.
Take Detroit, 27-13
Remember when these two teams were relevant – about 20-plus years ago.
Take Oakland, 26-20
Another bad Monday nighter. Jets fans have fooled themselves into thinking they can sneak into the playoffs.
Take Tennessee, 20-17
With or without RG3, Redskins have come too far to stumble here.
Take Washington, 17-13
Last Week: 7-8 ATS; 10-5 Straight up
Overall: 82-102-6 ATS; 124-80 Straight up
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at email@example.com.