Keys to Victory

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Keys to Victory: Can The Cowboys "Steel" A Win?


The Steelers enter Sunday's game as the NFL's only undefeated team. But of their seven games, six of which have been decided by 10 points or less.

Yes, Pittsburgh has been consistently great throughout the season, but they've had a tendency of playing close games.

Perhaps, the Cowboys can keep it close and find a way to pull out a victory, which would break a three-game losing skid.

Let's find out what needs to happen for the Cowboys and Steelers to get the win.

The Steelers will win if…

The Steelers will win if they are able to impose their will on the Cowboys, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The blitz-heavy tactics applied by defensive coordinator Keith Butler has made quarterbacks and offensive lines crumble under the pressure. T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt, and Cam Heyward are tough to deal with when the Steelers are sending five- and six-man pressures from all over the field. If the coverage stays tight behind the blitz, the Cowboys could have a tough time moving the ball with inexperienced quarterbacks overwhelmed by the chaos.

On offense, the Steelers can rely on their quick-rhythm passing game to stretch the defense horizontally while enabling Ben Roethlisberger to get the ball out of his hands before the Cowboys' pass rush can collapse the pocket. James Conner and Benny Snell will get plenty of carries early in the game to see if the Cowboys have fixed their run defense. If the Steelers' offensive line seizes control of the line of scrimmage, the Cowboys could be in for a long day on defense.

The Cowboys will win if…

The Cowboys will chalk up a win if they play their best game of the season on each side of the ball. The defense must play with great energy and effort while matching the toughness and physicality of the Steelers. The Cowboys' defense must be able to withstand the haymakers thrown from a physical offense and respond by pummeling their opponent with big hits at every turn. From a tactical standpoint, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan must determine whether to bring pressure or play coverage against Roethlisberger. The quick-rhythm nature of the Steelers' passing game makes it nearly impossible to get home on blitzes but sitting back and letting the veteran carve up a soft defense with dink-and-dunk passes is a recipe for disaster.

On offense, the Cowboys must find a way to run the football against a defense that is intent on slowing down Ezekiel Elliott. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore must stubbornly stick with the run to protect his inexperienced quarterbacks and offensive line. If the Cowboys are forced to throw the ball 40-plus times against a high-pressure defense with a knack for racking up sacks and turnovers, the game will quickly spiral out of control. That said, the Cowboys will need to take a few downfield shots to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb to exploit the most vulnerable part of the Steelers' defense, but utilizing max protection on those throws will be required. The Cowboys face long odds pulling off an upset against the NFL's only unbeaten team but a ball-control offense and big-play defense could help them walk away with a win.