After Further Review: Modest goals achieved

CANTON, Ohio - "It was no Mozart."

That's how the Hall-of-Fame Coach, Bill Cowher, might have summed up Steelers 16, Cowboys 3.

Cowher wasn't awarded a bronze bust for his mastery of the malaprop, mixed metaphor and other "circumcisions" of linguistics (although if such things were handed out, Cowher would have had one long ago).

But his point would have been made (as it was after many Steelers games over the years) late Thursday night.

It wasn't a Picasso (no matter what it sounded like).

Fortunately, much of what Mike Tomlin was hoping for from his team in the first of its scheduled four exhibitions involved coloring inside the lines.

The Steelers had modest goals and they achieved them.

On to Philadelphia.

The win was a bonus, especially since it played out in front of Cowher, Alan Faneca, Donnie Shell and a bunch of other Gold Jackets.

"Our conditioning held up, and that's a good thing to see," Tomlin explained. "You're never really sure how that's gonna come together in terms of all three phases, offense, defense and special teams.

"I liked our in-game awareness in terms of guys moving from one unit to another. I think largely we had 11 guys on the field, and that sounds funny but first time out, particularly as you get into the second half of things it gets challenging.

"I thought the guys did a really good job of putting their conditioning on display and I thought they did a really good job of just staying in tune to the game and being where it is they're supposed to be and being engaged in that way."

It does sound funny.

But it's also important first-game stuff upon which more important stuff can be built down the road.

Game action photos from the Hall of Fame game vs. the Dallas Cowboys at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, OH

THREE-HORSE RACE: None of the three quarterbacks the Steelers played threw an interception.

Only one of them threw a touchdown pass.

It wasn't starter Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins, the first guy out of the bullpen.

Tomlin was "happy" Josh Dobbs wound up throwing it, but he wasn't "surprised.

"You know he's been with us before and performed similarly when given an opportunity," Tomlin offered. "Man, this guy's not gonna back down from the competition."

The perception is it's a battle between Rudolph and Haskins for No. 2 behind Ben Roethlisberger at the position.

But perception may not necessarily be reality, at least it isn't to Tomlin.

"You guys keep asking me about Rudolph and Haskins; (Dobbs isn't) going anywhere," Tomlin maintained. "We were in a training camp set a number of years ago and it was (Landry) Jones and Rudolph and Dobbs.

"Nobody was asking me about Dobbs and he came out of it."

CROSSING THE LINE: The Steelers ended up with 76 rushing yards on 30 attempts, an average of 2.5 yards per carry.

The most symbolic of the bunch might have been the one running back Kalen Ballage took into the end zone on second-and-goal from the Dallas 4 in the third quarter.

The mandate has repeatedly been issued, from Art Rooney II, to Tomlin and on down the line not to be last in the NFL in rushing again this season.

Left unsaid but every bit as admirable a goal would be to carry the ball over the goal line more often, as opposed to passing it into the end zone.

There's no better way to foster the mindset the Steelers are trying to establish, the attitude and the nasty up front than by scoring rushing touchdowns.

Only Houston (10), Jacksonville (nine) and the New York Jets (nine) scored fewer of those than the Steelers last season (12).

They had a chance for more than one against the Cowboys but ultimately had to throw it in on one fourth-quarter series that reached the Dallas 4-yard line and came away empty on another that made it as far as the Dallas 5.

As Tomlin observed afterward, "We're all a work in progress."

The running game in particular.

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