When the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys meet on Sunday (4:25 PM, ET, FOX), it will be the 28th regular season meeting between two organizations that won six Super Bowls in the 1970s. The Cowboys have won 14 of the previous 27 games against the Steelers, yet Pittsburgh has captured two straight, both overcoming double-digit fourth quarter deficits. More importantly for Pittsburgh is a need to wipe out an embarrassing ten-point loss to the San Diego Chargers last week, facing a Cowboys team that scored ten unanswered points in the fourth quarter last week, beating the Cincinnati Bengals with a last second field goal.
With the Steelers having already declared offensive guard Willie Colon out, Ramon Foster will move from right to left guard, replacing Colon, and rookie DeCastro will be making his first NFL start at right guard. James Harrison, Antonio Brown, Stevenson Sylvester and Greg Warren all sat during practice this week, but are listed as probable with flu-like symptoms. Troy Polamalu, Emmanuel Sanders and LaMarr Woodley also sat during a practice this week, though expected to start after full participation on Friday.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is out for the season after undergoing sports hernia surgery this week, having already missed seven straight with ankle and groin issues. Dez Bryant promises that he'll play with a broken finger, currently listed as questionable, as are Nate Livings and cornerback Morris Claiborne, both of whom suffered concussions against the Bengals last week. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware (elbow) is also questionable, but is expected to play with a brace on his elbow.
Both teams are entering the game seemingly from opposite ends of the momentum track. Dallas has won four of their past five, but three were against teams with a losing record (including the Eagles twice). Pittsburgh has lost three of the past four, with two of those losses to the Browns and Chargers -- though they scored their win against the Baltimore Ravens on December 2. The Steelers have won 12 of the past 14 games against the NFC.
For Cincinnati the implications are noteworthy.
A Steelers loss to the Cowboys gives the Bengals an advantage if Cincinnati can beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 16, which eliminates the Steelers from the 2012 NFL playoffs. I proudly admit it. A trivial though deliciously evil fascination exists from Bengals fans, watching the Steelers collapse. But eggs before their hatched suggests hesitation, considering the Bengals haven't always been at their best playing Pittsburgh.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cowboys, then no change. But a win next week over Pittsburgh doesn't eliminate the Steelers from the postseason. In fact it would force the Bengals to beat the Ravens, provided the Steelers avoid a series sweep from the Cleveland Browns.