ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys had their chances to win. Throwing into the end zone on the final play of the game is evidence enough of how close they were to giving the Steelers their first loss.
However, in between the touchdowns, turnovers and major penalties that wiped out crucial plays, there are a handful of other plays that played a big factor in the outcome.
- Pollard goes nowhere after big run – The Cowboys were moving on their first drive of the game. After a 20-yard run by Tony Pollard gave the Cowboys a first down at the Steelers' 14, they went back to Pollard for two plays. His first run was a 1-yard loss, followed by a catch for no gain. On third down, Gilbert was sacked and the Cowboys kicked the first of four field goals. That was one of many drives where the offense had some moments, but couldn't finish the job.
- Steele's penalty proves costly – The Steelers had just scored to cut the lead to 13-6, but with 1:10 left until halftime, the Cowboys were looking for points. On first down, Garrett Gilbert found Dalton Schultz over the middle for a 20-yard gain to the Cowboys' 45. However, an illegal formation penalty was called on rookie tackle Terence Steele, who wasn't lined up close enough to the line of scrimmage. The 5-yard penalty not only wiped out the big gain, but led to a catch by CeeDee Lamb on the next play. Lamb fumbled the ball away, leading to more points for the Steelers.
- Thompson's penalty pushes offense back – The Cowboys had just run one of the best trick plays in memory, with a throwback pass on a punt return. C.J. Goodwin bobbled the ball before running 83 yards down the left sideline. But an illegal block on Darian Thompson prevented Dallas from getting the ball at the Steelers' 11-yard line. Instead, the penalty pushed it back to the 31, where the Cowboys would settle for just a field goal, extending the lead to 13-0.
- Steelers benefit from own penalty – Just before halftime, the Steelers attempted a 54-yard field goal by Chris Boswell with just two seconds left. While Boswell's kick sailed to the left no good, the whistle was blown just before the snap due to a false start penalty on the Steelers. With several Cowboys players already in the locker room thinking the half was over, the Steelers got another chance, this time from 59 yards out. Boswell drilled that kick, giving the Steelers a boost into halftime, trailing just 13-9.
- Cowboys get nothing after long return – The big kickoff return from Rico Dowdle was a momentum-changing play for the Cowboys, and one that seemed to at least get them in range for points. But on second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Gilbert's pass to Blake Bell was knocked down at the line of scrimmage and fell incomplete. Maybe Bell could've scored there, but if not, it probably sets up four-down territory to try and run the ball in. Instead, on third down, Gilbert was picked off in the end zone.
- Bonus Play:* LVE's penalty after Smith is flagged* – Who can forget the two penalties that went against Jaylon Smith? They certainly are ones for this list. But after his illegal contact flag wiped out a fumble return by Aldon Smith, it was a questionable flag on Leighton Vander Esch that tacked on 15 yards on the next play. LVE said after the game he was trying to get loose from tailback Anthony McFarland and his hand hit McFarland's face mask, causing the penalty. That moved the ball to the Cowboys' 27-yard line and put Pittsburgh in range for another field goal.