History shows that these two teams play very close when they meet, in fact in the 30 times they have met during regular season play, the outcome has been decided by 10 or fewer points in 20 of the games.
This trend shoudn't change on Sunday afternoon. Both need the win as the playoff screw tightens. After Thursday night action, the Steelers (7-6) are a game back on the Cincinnati Bengals in the race for the second AFC Wild Card berth. The Cowboys (7-6) are in a similar position, but the are in the NFC East division hunt, a game back on the New York Giants.
All to play for then, the loser knowing that they will need to win their remaining two games and get serious help from others. Lets have a look at three elements of the game that could determine who wins this intense matchup.
1. Pittsburgh's Number One Rated Defense, Will Pressure Romo.
Currently ranked number one in the league in terms of yards allowed per game. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau has his unit playing hard at the right time of year, but the statistic can be deceiving. They are ranked low in other categories, such as sacks and interceptions. You feel they will have to get to Tony Romo often and hard to slow him down, something which could be helped by the lack of cohesion of the Dallas offensive line. Romo is suspect to giving the ball away in big games, so Pittsburgh will look to exploit that and get some crucial turnovers. Having said that the pass defense is very stingy, giving up only, a league first, 169.2 yards per game.
2. The Cowboys Running Game Will Deliver.
Teams that struggle to run the Ball, invariably struggle to win games. This has been the case for most of the season so far for the Dallas Cowboys. When DeMarco Murray was sidelined with a foot injury for six weeks, the run attack suffered. Try as he did Felix Jones, also carrying an injury, could not help take the strain off of Romo. A balanced attack is what is needed to win games. The Cowboys are averaging just 79.8 yards per game on the ground, this has to improve. With receiver Dez Bryant willing to play through the pain of a broken finger, the passing game may not be as a potent. So look for Dallas to establish a strong ground game early. Murray will be a strong influence on how this game turns out. He can practically win games on his own, with hard running and as a good option out of the backfield in the passing game.
3. Clutch Kicking Of Dan Bailey
In a game which is going to be close you always look at the play of the special teams and in particular the placekicker. Both teams have very reliable ones. Pittsburgh's Shaun Suisham has only missed one field goal attempt this year, but is only 81.9% in his career. Dan Bailey has fast become Mr.Reliable in the latter part of this season. Tying up the game against Cleveland as time expired, and then booting the game winner in overtime. And just last week he sealed the come from behind, emotional game in Cincinnati, Again as time ticked down Bailey came up trumps with a big 40 yard attempt. If, as predicted, this game comes down to who has the ball last, then look for Romo to do enough for his kicker. Anything inside a 55 yard try and he will be in range, and more than likely to be a game winner again.