FRISCO, Texas – Here are the two matchup that I'll have a close eye on based on my film study of this 4-4 Pittsburgh Steelers team.
Dallas Cowboys DT Terrell McClain vs. Pittsburgh Steelers OG David DeCastro
The Steelers are an interesting team in the regard that, with all their high flying talent on offense it's their line that has struggled the most. As a unit they have not created the type of movement in the running game that we have seen in previous seasons. At one time this was a nasty, physical front, but that's no longer the case.
This group might be further compromised with the thumb injury to center Maurkice Pouncey that is likely to hold him out of practice this week. B.J. Finney filled in last week against the Ravens, but he is nowhere as talented as Pouncey. If Pouncey is out, that leaves David DeCastro as their best linemen among the group.
The Steelers are going to try and do their best to protect Ben Roethlisberger inside due to the fact that he is struggling with his own issues with his knee. Like most quarterbacks in this league, he hates pressure from the inside. Terrell McClain and Maliek Collins have done a nice job of working together to provide a good push. With Roethlisberger it is especially troubling, but it forces him to get rid of the ball and not run around.
Where Roethlisberger is at his best, even with the knee problem, is when he can move around and buy those second and third chances. The Ravens did an exceptional job of attacking the middle of the Steelers' line with power, which kept Roethlisberger in the pocket and led to some off target throws.
Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Pittsburgh Steelers CB Artie Burns
This is a matchup that I really do believe the Cowboys can take advantage of with Dez Bryant. I thought Burns was a grabber in college, as he had to do latch on to receivers in order to stay in position -- and I am seeing that too in the NFL.
Burns lined up on both sides against the Ravens. He had an interception in the game where he was just in the right place at the right time. I wouldn't say that he is quick. He would guess on routes in college, but he appears to have cleaned that up. He has been playing with better technique in these games, but he tends to labor when the ball is down the field. I never felt like he really ran all that well, and I could see one of these Cowboys receivers carry him down the field for a big play.
As a rookie, Burns is not always aware. He will be physical with his man along the line, but he has trouble when in press and doesn't get his hands on the man. He was beaten inside on a slant from tight press man coverage. One big thing I'm watching is that he lacks change of direction. I feel like you can stop-start on him and have success.
I expect to see Dez Bryant carry him all over the field to see if he can match up. I feel like he is going to need help to handle Bryant in this game.