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Game Balls: Broaddus Rewards Offensive Line, Unlikely LB
Offensive Game Ball: The Offensive Line
To me, this game for the Cowboys was going to be won or lost along the offensive line. If they could finds ways to manufacture yards for running back DeMarco Murray, but more importantly, protect Tony Romo, the opportunity for victory was much greater.
When you play a Dick LeBeau defense, you are always going to deal with different looks, but like Romo said in his postgame press conference, as long as he stayed calm and didn’t allow the looks to affect him, they would be fine. What allowed Romo to remain calm was the ability of his line to keep the pressure off him, giving him time to attack the Steelers secondary, which wasn’t up to the challenge against the Cowboys receivers.
I really believed that there were serious matchup problems for the Cowboys against the Steelers front seven. I really wasn’t sure how right tackles Doug Free and Jermey Parnell would hold up against James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, or if center Ryan Cook could handle Casey Hampton on the run or pass.
You have to give a great deal of credit to offensive line coach Bill Callahan and a unit that has had more than its share of struggles this season.
Defensive Game Ball: Brandon Carr
As this contest wore on, I was surprised that the Steelers didn’t try to attack Mike Jenkins or Sterling Moore, but instead they went after Brandon Carr instead. Like the majority of the defenders on this Cowboys defense, Carr is a beat up football player, physically.
Down after down, these cornerbacks have been challenged this year, and were in particular against this group of Steelers, who are such vertical players. What Carr was able to do early in the game was have a nice understanding what they were trying to do to him, route-wise, and play off that.
When Mike Wallace tried to take him on a "9” pattern, Carr was in great shape on the route, which made Roethlisberger have to look in another direction. On his interception, Wallace tried to take him on the out again, but Carr, with a great read and break on the ball, made an adjusting interception.
For the game, Carr had four tackles, three passes defensed and a play that kept his team’s playoff hopes alive.
Special Teams Game Ball: Victor Butler
It would be real easy for me to give this ball to Dan Bailey for his two field goals or Dwayne Harris for his 39-yard punt return, but there were five special teams tackles that were made in this game and the biggest one belonged to Victor Butler.
With the score Pittsburgh 24 and Dallas 17, the Cowboys were faced with a fourth-and-19 on their own 24. Punter Brian Moorman hammered the ball 60 yards on a punt to Antonio Brown who broke down the left sideline with plenty of room. Butler was covering down that side as Brown headed in his direction.
Brown tried to cut inside of Butler, but he reached out with his left hand, hitting Brown’s arm and causing the ball to pop free. John Phillips was in position to grab the loose ball and set the Cowboys up at the Steelers 44-yard line, first-and-10.
Seven plays later, DeMarco Murray scored from the 3-yard line to tie the game. Without Butler’s tackle, the Steelers would have taken time off the clock, killing the Cowboys hopes. Read