While a game between 9-3 and 8-4 teams is bound to attract notice for playoff implications alone, the memories the Cowboys and the Steelers evoke of contests on the grandest stage is getting the hype machine in high gear for this one. Dallas fans will undoubtedly make a showing at Heinz, buoyed with confidence that their seemingly lost season has rebounded back into the playoff race.
How effective Bryant McFadden can be after a prolonged absence is going to be a key factor to how the Steelers can match up with the T.O.-Roy Williams-Jason Witten-Miles Austin foursome. The huge size advantage Dallas' receiver have over all of our receivers mean jump balls could be a problem, lending added urgency to our push rush getting to Romo. Beyond familiarity they have with it, the new turf should benefit the Steelers in slowing the 'Boys outside receivers, helping the secondary when they have matched one-on-one with the wideouts. T.O. is bound to get more than his share of looks (or else he'll bitch about it), but I like the Steelers chances of holding those to underneath and medium-range routes. Cowboys fans are quick to predict that the Steelers will get beat deep because Polamalu plays too close to the line, but then everyone calls for this and it seldom, if ever, happens.
As the game against Arizona when Romo hurt his pinkie showed, if James Harrison can get to him, he may not have much difficulty performing his patented strip-sack maneuver he's utilized to great effect on the Matt Cassel's and Joe Flacco's of the football world.
Even with the O-line putting together a pretty good performance against New England, and the fact that DeMarcus Ware isn't 100 percent, doesn't make me any less uneasy about him going against Max Starks on the left side, but what're you going to do? Adam Jones is going to struggle against whoever he has to cover. That coupled with a new welcome emphasis on throwing the ball to Heath Miller but counteract some of the pressure Ware is bound to generate.
If all goes well, next week will be the Steelers in M&T Bank Stadium a game up in the standings with tiebreakers on the line. I wouldn't count on the struggling Redskins to eke out a win in Baltimore Sunday night, as much as I'd to see that happen. Except an early season victory in Philly, Washington has had nothing but problems with pressure-happy defenses, and I don't think that looks like a great match-up for them.
Not that you will, but if you need any help getting motivated for this game, the following video should do the trick for you.
Update: Didn't realize Miles Austin was out for Sunday. Huzzah!