FRISCO, Texas – Here are my two biggest keys to Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
The Cowboys are currently ranked 11th in the NFL when it comes to red zone offense. They have had 33 drives this season, with 21 of those resulting in touchdowns. That puts them at 63 percent when it comes to red zone touchdown efficiency.
On the other side of the field, the Steelers are currently ranked third in the NFL when it comes to red zone defense. The Steelers have allowed 27 drives this season, but opposing offenses are only scoring touchdowns at a 44 percent rate. Defensively, they have only given up five touchdown passes through the air and another seven on the ground. If you count field goals as well, Pittsburgh has allowed an average of 4.3 points a game in the red zone.
Dallas coming into this game has averaged 5.2 points so just to give you an idea, the Tennessee Titans lead the league with an average of 5.8 points per game on their red zone trips. Scott Linehan and the staff have been very creative in the red zone this season with their scheme and they will need to do more of the same if they are going to win this game.
Pittsburgh Steelers Win If:
When you think of the great Pittsburgh Steelers defenses of the past, it has always been an aggressive, hard-nosed, tackling unit. Under former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, this defense would get bodies to the ball and shut opposing offenses down.
What is most surprising about this current unit under Keith Butler is that, on tape, you see them allow yards after the catch -- which you never saw before. The Steelers rank near the bottom of the league (26th) when it comes to handling opponents in this manner. Of the 2,262 passing yards that the Steelers have allowed so far this season, 1,178 of those yards have been run after the catch. On the other hand, their opponent is seventh in the league when it comes to allowing run after the catch. Of 2,052 passing yards allowed by the Cowboys this season, only 812 have come after the catch - that's 39 percent of the total.
For the Steelers to win this game they are going to have to be able to deal with Dak Prescott and his ability to deliver the ball to his various weapons. How well Pittsburgh tackles in those situations is going to be the difference in this game.