ReFo: Steelers @ Cowboys, Week 15
Two teams battling once again for the postseason met, with the Dallas Cowboys needing overtime to come away with the win over the Steelers at home. This was a game that was down to the quarterbacks as much as anything, with both Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo showing a ridiculous ability to extend plays at times, and ultimately it was fitting that one of them would be responsible for the outcome.
With the Steelers taking the ball to begin overtime, Roethlisberger tried to hit a quick out pattern only for cornerback Brandon Carr to undercut the route and dive in front to pick off the ball, returning it to the 1-yard line and coming up just short of the winning pick-six. The play was enough to allow the Cowboys to simply center the football and kick the game-winning score, and move into a three-way tie atop the NFC East.
Pittsburgh remain in the thick of things, thanks to other results going their way, but will need to step up in the final two weeks of the season now they face division rivals.
Pittsburgh – Three Performances of Note
Big Ben’s Big Mistake
One bad throw was really the only thing holding the Steelers’ quarterback from a top performance, but that throw cost Pittsburgh the game. Over the course of the game he displayed his trademark knack for extending the play and making things happen even when all seemed lost. You won’t find a better example of what Roethlisberger can do than the touchdown thrown to Heath Miller, which featured more than eight seconds of time with the ball in the quarterback’s hands and constant movement to make sure he stayed alive before finally finding Miller open, having forced the coverage defender, Anthony Spencer, to come up and honor the threat of his scramble. In an otherwise great game it was a forced throw, and less than ideal ball location, that cost him in overtime.
First Glimpse at DeCastro
It’s been a long time coming, but we finally got a good look at one of the most hyped guard prospects in years. David DeCastro played all 62 snaps for the Steelers in this game and played well for the most part. Though he did give up a sack, it was the lone play of pressure all game, despite 45 snaps in pass protection. He formed a formidable pairing with C Maurkice Pouncey as the oft-overrated center gave up just a lone hurry all game. The pair was also impressive run blocking, getting to the second level and moving players away from the point of attack, generating some creases for the Steelers running backs.
Reserve Defensive Backs
The Steelers have been hit hard with injuries to their defensive backfield in recent weeks, leading them to start Josh Victorian at one corner spot and rely on depth players like Robert Golden and Curtis Brown in their sub packages. The Cowboys went after Victorian hard, targeting him nine times in the game, and completing eight of those balls for 88 yards. Unfortunately for the Steelers, it was some of their trusted veterans that struggled as much as anybody. Troy Polamalu might have outstanding instincts ordinarily, but he was out of position a few times in this game, at one point jumping the wrong route rather than covering his man out of the slot, and ending the day missing a pair of tackles. Victorian compounded his poor day in coverage by missing four tackles himself.
Dallas – Three Performances of Note
The Good Tony Romo
This was a near-perfect performance from Tony Romo, completing 30 of 42 for 341 yards and two touchdowns, while having seven passes dropped. His accuracy rating on the day was a ridiculous 88.1%, which is the best mark among quarterbacks in the NFL this week. If there were areas that could use improvement it was on his deep ball, where he completed one of just three shots over 20 yards in the air, and on plays under pressure. When he was hurried his passer rating plummeted from over 100 to just 39.6, and he completed just a pair of passes for 13 yards.
Games like this are why the Cowboys paid Carr a lot of money in the offseason. He was thrown at a dozen times, more than twice the next highest Cowboys defender, and he allowed only six catches for 60 yards, with the longest of those going for just 20 yards. He also got his hands to three passes, breaking up two of them before his game-defining interception in overtime to snatch the win. Carr faced off against both Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, with Brown getting more joy, but only on short routes usually taking advantage of the cushion being given.
Another Big Spencer Day
Traditionally their run-stuffing stud, Anthony Spencer has been showing up as a pass-rushing presence in recent weeks, even outshining DeMarcus Ware at times. Both players rushed the passer 35 times in this game, but Spencer was on the field for nine more snaps than Ware between coverage and run plays. Ware notched a sack, a hit and a hurry, as well as getting himself flagged for roughing the passer, but Spencer bettered that with a pair of sacks, a hit and two hurries. He is still very much second fiddle when it comes to rushing the passer for the Cowboys, but if he has days like this the team becomes a lot harder to contain.
– Dez Bryant played 54 snaps out of a possible 70 as he played on through his broken finger, catching four balls, scoring a touchdown, but also dropping three.
– Under pressure Ben Roethlisberger’s passer rating was a ridiculous 121.8.
– Isaac Redman rushed for just 30 yards, but 21 came after contact and he was inches from breaking off one of the best runs of the season, as he stepped out of bounds after breaking three tackles and getting loose down the sideline.
PFF Game Ball
Tony Romo won the battle of the quarterbacks, but it was Brandon Carr who made the biggest play at the biggest moment to set up the win.