The rivalry's back.
The Cowboys are heading to Pittsburgh for the first time since 2008, and although the 32nd all-time matchup won't be for the Lombardi Trophy – the franchises have faced off in three Super Bowls – there's plenty at stake midway through the 2016 season.
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expected back in Pittsburgh's lineup for the second time since his October knee injury, the Steelers (4-4) are trying to avoid a four-game losing streak. The Cowboys (7-1), meanwhile, are trying to win eight straight games for the first time since 1977.
The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their gut feelings for Sunday's matchup at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh:
Bryan Broaddus: I really like the matchup of Dez Bryant working against Steelers rookie Artie Burns. I feel like the offensive plan will be to run the ball but also continue to spread it around among the weapons. Bryant will get his opportunities and they will be cleaner looks like he had against the Redskins earlier in the season. Bryant finishes the day with six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in a Dallas victory, 28-24.
Rob Phillips: The Steelers are a proud franchise, too, so you can just imagine the level of effort they'll give at home to avoid a four-game losing streak. Ultimately, as always, the game will come down to matchups. How many different front-seven looks will Pittsburgh give Dak Prescott? Dick LeBeau is no longer running the defense, but the Steelers still want to pressure the quarterback. If they load up to stop Ezekiel Elliott and the running game, I believe Dez Bryant will have a chance to make plays downfield – much more similar to the Eagles game (4 catches, 113 yards, touchdown) than the Browns game last Sunday (one catch, 19 yards). Antonio Brown is going to catch passes against any defense, but if the Cowboys can keep Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket and win critical third downs – the Steelers are converting 40.6 percent of the time – I think the Dallas winning streak continues.
Nick Eatman: This might have been the toughest game to call so far this year. On one hand, this team has won seven straight games and four of which by double-digits. They're as hot as you can be and no one has come close to slowing down this running game. On the other hand, this is Pittsburgh. This is Big Ben and Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. They're not losing four straight games are they? So I've just gone back and forth with this one, but my gut just tells me Ezekiel Elliott will keep running. Dak Prescott will keep making plays and the defense will somehow find to get enough stops. I think this will be close for a while but the running game will power the Cowboys over the top. My side predictions are: a 100-yard receiving game by Terrance Williams, a touchdown by either team of at least 80 yards and some big play that involves Anthony Hitchens. The Cowboys will pull away in the fourth quarter for a 33-24 win to get to 8-1.
David Helman:This is easily as conflicted I've been about a game this season. On one hand, the Cowboys are rolling and the Steelers are a deeply flawed team. Pittsburgh beat the 7-2 Chiefs by 29 points, and they also lost to the 4-4 Eagles by 31. Who exactly are these guys? They have a Pro Bowl running back, but they don't run the ball particularly well. They have a Pro Bowl quarterback who is still coping with a knee injury. Their run defense is middling, allowing 99.6 yards on the ground per game. Their pass defense is worse, ranking 24th in the league. There's plenty of reason to believe the Cowboys can go to Heinz Field – where the Steelers win 72 percent of their games – and snatch a win. There's also plenty of reason to think a seasoned quarterback and his talented supporting cast, with their backs against the wall, can dig down and pull their season out of the fire with a statement win. Like I said, I'm conflicted. But for everything I don't know about the Steelers, I know a lot about the Cowboys. This team is the model of consistency. They run the ball well, they limit turnovers and they prevent big plays. All three of those things are crucial components for winning on the road. I don't feel confident the Cowboys will win, but they've earned the benefit of the doubt and I'm going to roll with them. Zeke Elliot runs for 108 and a score, while Dak Prescott throws two touchdowns. Roethlisberger throws for 360 yards, but the Dallas defense does enough to get out with a win – something like 34-31.