A look at what the Steelers will be up against on Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Cowboys:
DAK'S THE FACT JACK:** Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has posted head-scratching statistics through his first eight games (he's completed 66.5 percent of his passes, with 12 touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 104.2). But what's been even more impressive has been the way Prescott gone about his business.
He looks like he's been doing this for eight years, not eight games.
He's calm in the pocket. He's calm when plays break down. He doesn't appear to rattle.
Prescott looks equally comfortable under center or in the shotgun. He can throw from the pocket, off a bootleg or on the run. He has a sense for vacating the pocket to re-set after a couple of seconds even when he isn't forced to by pressure, presumably to avoid becoming a stationary target for too long. Nothing he does appears to result from panic. He'll throw underneath rather than force the ball into coverage and wherever he's throwing, he's usually on time and on target.
Prescott has also rushed 31 times for 125 yards and four touchdowns. He doesn't necessarily look to run when he vacates the pocket, but he can. And he's read-option capable.
The Steelers prepare for the Week 10 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
THE ZEKE SHOW:** Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has more rushing touchdowns (seven) than 13 NFL teams. He has more rushing yards (891) than any running back in the league. His 5.0 average per carry is topped only by Miami's Jay Ajayi (6.0) and Buffalo's LeSean McCoy (5.1) among backs with at least 100 carries. And only San Diego's Melvin Gordon has carried the ball more often (193-177).
The Cowboys love to deploy two tight ends, line Prescott up under center and position Elliott 8 yards back and then watch what happens.
What usually happens is Elliott sticks it up in there with authority.
He runs violently at 6-foot and 225 pounds and often seems to seek out contact at the end of runs. Elliott is also adept at starting inside and then darting outside, and at starting outside and then putting his foot in the ground and exploding through an inside hole. And he has the vision to make the right decision in such instances much more often than not.
LINE DANCING: The Cowboys' offensive line features three former first-round draft choices, left tackle Tyron Smith (2011), center Travis Frederick (2013) and right guard Zach Martin (2014). And the Cowboys' offensive line looks every inch the part of such a configuration.
The Cowboys run the inside- and outside-zone schemes. And they can pull with the best of them, guards, tackles, even Frederick out to the edge.
Elliott has been a revelation at running back for Dallas, but he's also been running through college-sized holes.
ALL FOR ONE:** The Dallas defense relies more on scheme and execution than star-power. There isn't a difference-maker at any level, not on the level of a Geno Atkins, a Von Miller or a Patrick Peterson. The Cowboys have also been playing without starting cornerback Morris Claiborne and starting safety Barry Church of late, and without linebacker Rolando McClain (Reserve/Did Not Report) and defensive end Randy Gregory (Reserve/Suspended) all season.
But when they're getting four-man pressure from a defensive line that runs eight deep and everyone else is rallying to the ball, the Cowboys can defend.
Linebacker Sean Lee doesn't terrorize opponents, but he quarterbacks the defense and he makes tackles.
Defensive end Tyrone Crawford likes to line up outside of the right tackle in the "Wide 9" (remember Philadelphia?) and leads the team with three-and-a-half sacks.
When Dallas blitzes, a defensive back is often a part of the pressure package.
HE SAID IT: "This running game we're fixin' to see is the best in the league. They're first in the league in the running game, and that's how you win ballgames. You control the ball, you run-play action pass, you get chunks off of some of your play-action pass and you have the ball the majority of the time. That's an old-school plan for winning ballgames but it's always been successful." _ Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler on the Cowboys' offense.
"They don't have superstars. They have a lot of good players that understand their role and they execute fundamentally under pressure. They're rarely out of position. That's why they're a good defense." _ Fox-TV analyst Charles Davis on the Cowboys' defense.