Cowboys Blitz staff writers Jonah Tuls and Cami Griffin have started a new series of JAM sessions (Jonah and Cam combined. . . get it?) to deliver each week. In the fourth JAM session below, we discuss the upcoming matchup in Pittsburgh as well as the tough five-game stretch approaching.
Cami: If you look back at each team the Cowboys have faced up to this point in 2016, I feel as if Pittsburgh could be the one to exploit this Dallas defense. I thought Green Bay would, but as we all witnessed, Aaron Rodgers was not himself. The Steelers have played well at Heinz Field recently, with only one loss at home while Landry Jones was under center. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may not be fully healthy nor have a solid offensive line, but he’s still tough to bring down and obviously has the ability to pick apart the Cowboys fragile secondary through the air. How can Rod Marinelli and Co. limit Roethlisberger and playmaker Antonio Brown? Which specific matchup do you feel Pittsburgh could take advantage of?
Jonah: It seems like each time Dallas had to play against a team with an elite receiver this season, most questions leading up to the game were how they could limit him. However, it ends up being the players around him that make the larger contribution. With that being said, I think Sammie Coates could be in store for a big game. The achilles heels of both Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick are wide receivers who can take the top off with their deep speed, so I expect Sammie Coates to catch a long bomb this week as a result. The key for the Cowboys defense this week is to stop Le’Veon Bell, not Antonio Brown. If Dallas can control Bell, arguably the best running back in football, they have a great shot of winning the game. On the other hand, the Dallas offense is absolutely rolling right now. Will the red-hot rookie duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott keep it going with the terrible towels flying in Pittsburgh?
Cami: I’m at the point where I truly do not see a defense stopping Ezekiel Elliott. There may be a team in the future that limits him to a certain extent, and that will only be enough if they bring a high powered offense along with it. Dallas has yet to play a balanced offense that can keep this rookie duo on the sidelines. I still see the Cowboys putting up around 20 points on Sunday and be able to move the ball fairly well at times, but the real test is how this Dallas defense handles a plethora of playmakers on the opposite side. Will they give the Cowboys offense enough time? Heinz Field isn’t an easy atmosphere to play in, and if the Steelers offense is rolling to where the Cowboys have to shy away from the run a bit, Prescott could struggle. The Steelers are desperate, so you could see a different Pittsburgh team show up on Sunday. Dallas has a tough stretch of games approaching, including Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, Minnesota, and New York. How do you see the Cowboys coming out of this stretch?
Jonah: With the way this team is playing right now, I could easily see this team winning at least four of the next five of those games coming up. The wild card here however is the potential return of a healthy Tony Romo. Dak Prescott is the hot hand and future of this team, but keep in mind that a rookie quarterback has yet to win a Super Bowl in the history of the NFL. I believe at some point Romo will return as the starter for the Cowboys this season, and it could come as soon as the game against Baltimore after completing a full week of practice. With that being said, Dallas is in the driver’s seat with a 7-1 record to take control of the top seed in the NFC playoff picture if they can close out the season as well as they did to start it, but the question remains as to who will lead this team into that spot at the quarterback position. The biggest argument fans and analysts have as to why Dak Prescott should remain the starter is that taking him out for the return of Tony Romo would stifle this team’s momentum. If and when Romo returns, is there any reason to believe he can’t keep this team playing at a high level?
Cami: I agree with you in that Romo will in fact return as a starter for the Cowboys this season, as it has always seemed to be a ‘when’ conversation, not an ‘if,’ so that leads me to believe his return will be sometime in November. Romo returning would not hinder any momentum. I believe many fans are throwing around the word momentum when they’re actually describing confidence. There’s a difference. The team will still be confident, arguably if not more, with an experienced veteran behind center. Dallas has won seven games this season with two rookies leading the way, who wouldn’t be confident? This is a team game, and even though Romo isn’t as physically durable as Prescott, he provides many more opportunities in the passing game. Sure, many can argue that they’re winning right now so why does that matter, but little things like that matter immensely when playoffs come around. As far as chemistry, Romo has played alongside the majority of these players for several years now. Chemistry will be there. The only two players he would need to get in sync with on the offensive side of the ball, if any, are Ezekiel Elliott and Brice Butler. The situation has played out perfectly to where Dallas has had the luxury to wait to play Romo until he’s 110% ready, and I believe that will be demonstrated on the field in the near future.