Week 9 of the NFL season is here, as the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Dallas to take on the struggling Cowboys. The two teams’ seasons are heading in polar opposite directions, with the Steelers rolling at 7-0, while the Cowboys are floundering at 2-6. However, this will not be a cakewalk for the Steelers. If the Steelers want to improve to 8-0 and secure their 17th consecutive non-losing season, they will need to follow these keys.
- Come Out Energized
Pittsburgh is coming off two hard-fought, bruising games against the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens. Now they face a team down to their fourth string quarterback. The Steelers must have the same energy they had in their previous two contests if they want to come out with a victory.
Recent history suggests this is a game the Steelers might lose. After a game in Baltimore, head coach Mike Tomlin is only 5-7; this says a lot about how physical and draining those games are. In addition, Pittsburgh sometimes overlooks teams that have a much worse record. To avoid, this Pittsburgh needs to come out energized and ready to play. Just because the Cowboys are injured and have a bad record does not mean they are incapable of beating the Steelers. Pittsburgh needs to be ready.
- Stop the Run
The Dallas Cowboys are turning to their fourth string quarterback this week. It will either be Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush directing the Cowboys offense on Sunday. With that being said, the Cowboys will likely try to take the pressure off them by pounding the rock. Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard are good backs, and if the Steelers want to win they need to neutralize them and force either Gilbert or Rush to put the ball in the air.
Last week, Pittsburgh allowed 265 rushing yards to the Ravens. That is not acceptable, and Pittsburgh will not win another game this season allowing that many yards on the ground. If they cannot stop Elliot and Pollard this will be a long game for Pittsburgh.
- Let Conner Cook
Pittsburgh is at their best when they let James Conner wear teams down. This season he is putting up similar numbers to his breakout 2018 season. Dallas is the worst defense in the league statistically, they allow 5.1 yards per carry. Conner is currently putting up 4.5 yards per carry this season, and this week presents a great opportunity to increase that number.
Pittsburgh needs to impose their will on the Cowboys and let Conner run rampant. If the Steelers can establish the run, that can open up the passing game later on to put the game away. This should be a game where Ben Roethlisberger does not have to do much and he can watch Conner carry the team to victory.
- Protect the Football
The Cowboys forced four turnovers last week against the Eagles. This kept the game much closer than it should have been. Other than that game though, the Cowboys only forced three turnovers all season. For Pittsburgh to come out victorious, they need to hold on to the football. If they do not give the ball away they should be able to dominate and win this game easily. The Steelers just need to be careful.
- Stay Healthy
Pittsburgh is the much better team this week. However, the game can quickly shift if the Steelers start losing players due to injury. Pittsburgh is already down to a former practice squad player at the nose tackle in Henry Mondeaux, and cannot afford to lose more players due to injury. If Pittsburgh can get through the game without any major injuries they have a great chance of winning the game and continuing their strong start to the season.
My prediction: Steelers leave Dallas with a win.