Micah Parsons served up a wild reminder of just how long this road has been.
The Cowboys' electric rookie played just two series against Pittsburgh on Thursday night, roughly a dozen plays in total. With all the excitement surrounding his fast start to training camp, it's easy to forget that this Hall of Fame game were his first snaps in a game setting in almost two years.
"To be able to step out here, I came a long way from 2019 when I played my last game," Parsons said following the game.
Parsons was a consensus college All-American during that 2019 season, and he decided to opt out of 2020's COVID-shortened season and focus on the NFL draft. Through two weeks of training camp, the 22-year-old hasn't looked like someone who needed to shake the rust off.
He kept that momentum going against the Steelers, as he needed just six snaps to dart into the backfield and dive on a fumbled exchange
"I actually had a fumble recovery my first game in college, so I like the trend that's going on right now," he said.
No one wants to completely overreact to the first of four preseason games. Parsons didn't play the full first quarter and finished his night with three tackles to go with the fumble recovery. As previously noted, the fumble itself felt more like a gift than a defensive highlight.
But there's something to be said for a highly-touted rookie finding his way to the football. Through eight training camp practices, he's done it to his offensive teammates, and now he's done it in a game. In fact, Parsons said his experiences going against the Cowboys' offense had him feeling downright relaxed about facing the Steelers.
"I really wasn't that nervous. I was telling someone, was more nervous for my college games than I was this game," he said. "I don't know, maybe it's because when you go against guys like CeeDee, Zeke and Tony in practice, it makes things a lot more easy when you come out here."
It's another small step, but it's an important one. Speaking with reporters after the game, Parsons noted that it's nice to be getting back into a consistent football rhythm. From the end of his final Penn State season until he reported for training camp – a span of about 18 months – that's not something he had.
Parsons said it was a relief to get his first game action out of the way. Now, the goal is to carry it forward.
"Now I feel like I can just use those two series to build on, get ready to play the scrimmage on Saturday and get ready to play next Friday, too," he said. "I know it's going to be a long year and they're telling me to slow down, but I'm ready to go right now."