Even with a loss Sunday, the Steelers can clinch a playoff spot with wins in their final two games against the Bengals (Week 16) and Browns (Week 17), which would put Pittsburgh at 9-7. The Steelers would win a potential tiebreaker for second place in the AFC North if they finish a season sweep of the Bengals next week. The Cowboys’ playoff hopes have been boosted as they have won four of their last five games following a 3-5 start.
Here are three other statistical areas to watch Sunday:
Rushing woes have beset the Cowboys on both sides of the ball this season. Offensively, the Cowboys are last in the NFL with 3.45 yards per rush this season. That would be the second lowest total in team history behind 1960, the Cowboys’ first season. The Steelers have allowed 3.69 yards per rush this season, fourth best in the NFL. Over the last three weeks, the Cowboys rank 28th in run defense, allowing 159.3 rush yards per game. The Cowboys have allowed at least 140 rushing yards in three straight games for the first time since 2000 and most of those yards have come between the tackles. Of the 478 rushing yards the Cowboys have allowed the past three games, 308 have been between the tackles, including 131 yards after contact.
The Steelers are 2-4 this season when sending five-plus pass rushers on more than 40 percent of the opposing quarterbacks’ dropbacks. When the Steelers defense relies more on a standard pass rush of four or fewer defenders, the Steelers have gone 5-2. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has faced five or more pass rushers on 31 percent of his dropbacks this season. The Steelers have allowed just one touchdown pass, 3.5 yards per pass attempt and a Total QBR of 17.6 when they send five or more pass rushers on less than 40 percent of opponent dropbacks.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been throwing short more often, but when he has gone deep this season, he has struggled with such throws. Roethlisberger is 30th in completion percentage (25.0) on throws more than 20 yards downfield, including just 4 of 15 targeting wide receiver Mike Wallace. The Cowboys, however, have allowed half of 20-plus yard attempts to be completed this season, worst in the NFL. The Cowboys are also one of three teams that allowed at least five touchdowns on such passes without recording an interception.