Cowboys vs Steelers: NFL Hall of Fame Game preview

The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers will do battle in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 5 to unofficially open up the 2021 NFL season. Below, we preview this initial exhibition game on the summer schedule.

Cowboys vs Steelers: What you need to know

Dallas Cowboys backups vs Ben Roethlisberger

cowboys vs steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott won’t be on the field for this one as he returns from the devastating ankle injury the star Cowboys quarterback suffered last season. The recently-extended Pro Bowler is currently sidelined with a minor shoulder injury he suffered early in training camp. There’s no real reason for Prescott to suit up here.

As for Ben Roethlisberger, this could potentially be the final exhibition opener of his future Hall of Fame career should he play. Meanwhile, former Washington Football Team first-round pick Dwayne Haskins should be showcased here. He’s shown out during training camp.

  • Six-win season: The pressure is on Prescott to return to pre-injury form and help lift up what is a loaded Cowboys offense. In his stead, Garrett Gilbert must prove he’s a reliable backup in Dallas’ preseason opener against Pittsburgh or the Cowboys will be looking at the watered-down veteran free-agent market.
  • Big Ben: There was some thought given to the idea that he would leave Pittsburgh after 17 seasons. That didn’t come to fruition. However, he’s 39 years old and in the twilight of his career. There’s a good chance that 2021 will be it for the two-time Super Bowl champion.

Advantage: Dallas Cowboys

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Dallas Cowboys running backs vs Pittsburgh Steelers defensive front

We’re not expecting to see a whole heck of a lot from Elliott in this game. That’s even if he sees the field. Tony Pollard should get some action in. He’s impressed big time over the course of his first two seasons with the Cowboys.

  • Career Lows: Elliott struggled to the tune of a mere 979 rushing yards at a clip of 4.0 yards per rush last season, the lowest average of his career.
  • The Steel Curtain: The idea for Dallas has to be to get Zeke some touches this summer. It will be a difficult task against a Steelers defense that yielded the 11th-fewest rushing yards last season. Dallas’ offensive line will also be under pressure here should Zeke not suit up.

Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers

Chase Claypool vs Kelvin Joseph

These two youngsters should see some extended playing time. We’re most interested to see how Joseph holds up as a rookie against a big-bodied receiver who caught nine touchdowns in his initial NFL season.

  • Metro-perplexed: Dallas yielded a whopping 34 passing touchdowns against just 10 interceptions last season. New coordinator Dan Quinn and Co. then sought to add talented youngsters to the mix as a way to help this unit rebound.
  • WR Development: A second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Joseph will be thrown into the fire immediately. Expect Dallas’ coaches to line him up against Claypool early in the Hall of Fame Game. The Steelers’ young receiver caught 62 passes for 873 yards as a rookie last season.

Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike McCarthy vs Mike Tomlin

It appears that Mike McCarthy is already on the hot seat after one season in Dallas. The embattled head coach must turn things around in 2021 if he is to be in Big D for the long haul. Injuries will play a role here, too.

  • Cowboy up: Dallas finished McCarthy’s first season with a 6-10 record. More than anything, injuries impacted the Cowboys’ ability to remain relevant.
  • Cowbody down: That was no more true than a long the offensive line. Starters Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La’el Collins played in a combined 16 games. That’s tough for any team to overcome.

Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers

The bottom line: It’s going to be interesting to see how many starters play in this preseason opener between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. Either way, it should be fun to have football back in front of a packed house in Canton.

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