Breaking down Cowboys-Steelers with NFL insider Michael Lombardi
FOX Sports contributor Michael Lombardi is a personnel evaluator by trade who served as the Cleveland Browns general manager in 2013. Lombardi began his career with the San Francisco 49ers organization in 1984. He spent time with the 49ers (1984-86), Browns (1987-95, 2013), Philadelphia Eagles (1997-98), Oakland Raiders (1999-2007) and New England Patriots (2014-15) during his career, earning Super Bowl rings with San Francisco (1985) and New England (2014). Most recently, he served as a special assistant to the Patriots coaching staff during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, working closely with head coach Bill Belichick. Before every big NFL game, he assembles a report that breaks down the matchup from a front office perspective. He shared his seven-point look at Sunday's Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game (FOX, 4:25 p.m. ET) with us.
1. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has no touchdowns in five games. The Steelers need him to be the main man to win. Bell does, however, already have more receptions this year (36) than he did in six games last year (24).
2. Both defenses are based around their star linebackers. The Cowboys go as Sean Lee goes, and the Steelers go as Ryan Shazier goes.
3. Four-time Pro Bowl Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey returned last week after suffering a dislocated thumb on the second play of the game, but he was limited to 19 snaps. He had surgery Monday and plans to practice Friday and play Sunday. “He's going to have the ability to snap,” coach Mike Tomlin told reporters. “We'll give him a couple days to let it calm down from the procedure.”
4. In his first game back from knee surgery last week, Ben Roethlisberger had no lower body-power to drive the ball. He could not make a good throw because the ball kept pointing down. He throws more with his lower body than his arm.
5. Ezekiel Elliott (above) and the Cowboys must control the pace of the game and use the clock. Dallas is fifth in the league in first-down offense, so it should look to own the down-and-distance game given that the Steelers’ defense ranks 24th in the same area.
6. The Steelers got killed in the kicking game last week — too many mistakes. After three straight losses, expect them to play their best game of the season.
7. The Steelers and Cowboys have the same philosophy on defense: play the run, no big plays and handle the red zone. Each team must win the red zone to win – this game comes down to that phase. Pittsburgh ranks eighth in the league in red-zone scoring efficiency, and Dallas ranks 11th. On defense, the Steelers rank third and the Cowboys 12th in the same category.