Maintaining the necessary edge 

It's the type of perceived soft spot in the schedule in which the 7-0 Steelers could potentially be caught napping, which explains why they've been so up front during their preparations for 2-6 Dallas about their determination to head such a development off at the pass.

From head coach Mike Tomlin on down.

"We're preparing with an edge," Tomlin has insisted.

They're doing so in advance of a matchup with a Cowboys team that lacks more than starting quarterback Dak Prescott and his backup, Andy Dalton. Dallas' equation has also been altered significantly by injury and instability at a myriad of other positions, offensive and defensive line and linebacker, in particular, as the season has progressed.

The announcement this week that punter Chris Jones would require abdominal surgery is as good a snapshot as any as to the extent to which the Cowboys have been challenged from a health standpoint.

Dallas scored a touchdown on the third-quarter series during which Prescott was lost for the season on Oct. 11 against the New York Football Giants.

Since then the Cowboys have scored one more of those in 36 possessions and have been outscored by a combined 86-22 in consecutive losses to Arizona, at Washington and at Philadelphia.

The Steelers are aware of all of that, and that the Cowboys will be starting their fourth quarterback in nine games when they host the Steelers on Sunday.

But Tomlin remains adamant about this being no time for the Steelers to take their foot off the gas.

"There are ramifications or consequences of all performances," he said. "The state that we're in right now, we have some health and injury circumstances that have our attention. We have some guys that need to rise up this week, so I think we're going to have a level of urgency.

"I think we all understand what that means."

Steelers players this week have expressed a similar sentiment.

Samplings of what they've had to say included:

Wide receiver Chris Claypool: "We could still get knocked out of the playoffs at this point. We just have to keep our head on straight, focus about the little things and go ahead week to week instead of looking at the big picture."

And defensive tackle Cam Heyward: "We have a lot more games. For us to get too high or too low would be ill will. There's a lot more football to be played and if we don't play up to our standard, we're setting ourselves up for failure."

Unlike Claypool, a rookie, Heyward speaks from experience in such situations.

So does wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

"Every team is really good," Smith-Schuster maintained. "I would say about two years ago, we were a really good team and we went to the Oakland Raiders and we fell short and we lost a game to a team that was 1-6 or something like that.

"You just never know."

The game Smith-Schuster referenced was played on Dec. 9, 2018 in Oakland. The Steelers arrived at 7-4-1 and lost to the 2-10 Raiders, 24-21.

Smith-Schuster remembers, and expressed a two-fold focus to ward off a repeat:

"Stay humble going into Arlington, Texas and getting the job done."