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Losing streak at 4 after 35-30 loss

Posted Nov 13, 2016

The Steelers fell to 4-5, one game behind Baltimore in the AFC North.

COWBOYS 35, STEELERS 30

Steelers’ record: 4-5
One year ago: 5-4
Series record (including playoffs): Cowboys lead, 17-15

STORYLINE
Losers of three in a row, the Steelers hit the halfway point of their schedule with a 4-4 record and tied for first place in the AFC North, and this game against the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys was shaping up to be more than just one of 16. There had been a lot of attempts made to explain the frustrations of the Steelers’ performance so far by using statistics, and the most pertinent one could be this: the Steelers rank 16th in the league in points scored and 13th in the league in points allowed. Or to switch from numbers to words, the Steelers defense had a better first half of the season than the offense.

As far as this particular game, the Cowboys came to town with several obvious aspects of their game being the main contributors to the seven-game winning streak they brought into Heinz Field. But in addition to running back Ezekiel Elliott and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and what many believe is the best offensive line in the NFL, the Cowboys had two very productive possession-down receivers in Jason Witten and Cole Beasley.

“Those guys are the guys who keep possessions alive,” said Coach Mike Tomlin a couple of days before the game. “They’re running the ball, and running the ball extremely well, but they’re possessing the ball as an offense. They’re dominating the time of possession. On possession downs, these two players are highlights of their offense. They’re the chain-movers.”

HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT
The Steelers offense rolled up some impressive statistics against a Cowboys defense that came into the game ranked No. 10 in the NFL in yards allowed and tied-for-fourth in points allowed. They finished with 30 first downs, 448 total net yards, no turnovers, and a 4-for-5 efficiency in the red zone.

But it was the defense that couldn’t protect a one-point lead with 42 seconds left in the game, and on the five-play drive that ended with Dallas’ clinching touchdown, quarterback Dak Prescott attempted four passes, completing three, with all of them going to either Beasley or Witten. Beasley caught one for 10 yards, and Witten caught two for 18 yards.

FIRST HALF STAT THAT STANDS OUT
The Steelers offense rolled up some impressive first half statistics, but it managed only 15 points to hold a 15-13 lead at the intermission. The Steelers finished with 17 first downs to six for Dallas, Ben Roethlisberger completed 80.7 percent of his passes, and the team was 2-for-2 in the red zone. But two unsuccessful two-point conversion attempts and a 55-yard field goal attempt by Chris Boswell that sailed wide right combined to keep the score close.

TURNING POINT
The Steelers were penalized four times for 40 yards, compared to 10 for 98 yards assessed on the Cowboys, but the last of those four came in a critical situation. With 23 seconds left and Dallas with a first down at its own 48-yard line, Dak Prescott completed a 5-yard pass to Jason Witten. In the process of the gang-tackle with the clock running, rookie Sean Davis got his hand in Witten’s facemask, and the 15-yard penalty gave the Cowboys the ball on the Pittsburgh 32-yard line with 15 seconds left. Ezekiel Elliott scored the deciding points on the next play.