A couple of thoughts from Valley Ranch as the Cowboys prepare to face the Steelers.
The Struggle Continues
In a season that has been far from normal for the Cowboys, head coach Jason Garrett and this staff tried to have a normal week of practice. What has been normal for this team is how they've tried to deal with injuries on a weekly basis.
As the Cowboys prepared for the Steelers, there were questions about the availability of Dez Bryant. As I type these words, Bryant is going to play in the game on Sunday when earlier in the week it was reported that he would need to have season-ending surgery on his left index finger.
To Bryant's credit, he has put the team before himself, and for someone that has been called immature and problematic, he is making us all look foolish. Bryant is going to play with a custom-molded hard splint and tape to see if that can do the job.
Daily we talk about leadership or the lack of it on the Cowboys, and then Bryant finds a way to suit up and play when his team needs him the most. Is this a turning point for Bryant in his career? Maybe so. The selfish side of me just wanted to see Bryant grow up and learn how to be a pro. I'm not saying he is perfect, but you get the sense, in his words and actions, that he knows how important this is and that carries over to everyone trying to get him ready to play, from the equipment guys to the trainers to the coaches.
Football is the ultimate team sport and the actions of a few can raise the level of many. There is no one on this team that is playing healthy. DeMarcus Ware, Gerald Sensabaugh, DeMarco Murray and Brandon Carr are all fighting through various problems, but that is what makes the game so rewarding when you are successful. The one thing I have learned about this team is the more you test them, the more they want to prove you wrong.
The Pressure Points
The Steelers, like the Cowboys, have had their share of injuries to deal with. Their secondary is especially banged up, but also pay attention to their offensive line. Left guard Willie Colon is out and the way they were working around it was to move center Maurkice Pouncey to his spot and bring in Doug Legursky to play for Pouncey.
What it looks like the Steelers will most likely do is move Ramon Foster from the right side to the left, keeping Pouncey at center, but giving David DeCastro his first action of the season. DeCastro was a player that many had projected as a possible pick for the Cowboys in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Pouncey is the best center that the Cowboys will face this season, which will make it tough with no Jay Ratliff or Josh Brent. What makes Pouncey so formidable is his ability to not only cut your nose man off, but also in getting to the second level to the linebackers. He is rarely on the ground and is always playing on his feet. He is exceptional at getting to the outside on screens or any plays where he is in space. He will be able to help DeCastro just with his athletic ability.
Where the Cowboys will have an advantage is linebacker DeMarcus Ware against left tackle Max Starks. I have never been a big fan of Starks because he plays very slow-footed in my eyes. Look for Ware to work him hard on the edge.
On the opposite side, Kelvin Beachum starts for Mike Adams, although in a way, this is not a break for the Cowboys. Adams has had his share of struggles, but Beachum has played better when given the chance. I really do believe that the Steelers are going to try and run the ball to keep this line from having to do too much in the passing game and exposing Ben Roethlisberger to a lot of hits.