W2W4: Cowboys vs. Steelers

December, 16, 2012
12/16/12
11:00
AM ET
With three weeks to go in the 2012 season, Dallas and Pittsburgh are playing for its playoff lives on Sunday.

A preview:

The series: The teams have played each other in three Super Bowls, with the Steelers taking a 2-1 edge. Overall the teams have faced each other 30 times and the series is tied, 15-15. The last time these teams met was 2008 in Pittsburgh where the Steelers rallied for a 20-13 victory.

What a loss does for the Cowboys: It won't end their playoff hopes from a mathematical standpoint, however, it makes it harder for the Cowboys to reach the postseason as the division champ and they most likely will need help from other teams to reach the playoffs as a wild card. Several of the Cowboys players have said winning out is the best way to reach the postseason. In some ways, the Steelers are in the same boat.

Dez Bryant plays, right?: Of course he does. The Cowboys most dominant offensive player suffered a fractured left index finger in last week's victory over Cincinnati. He will play with a tape-up splint in the game and how it affects him is unknown, but it's clear the Cowboys need him. Also, Morris Claiborne has some issues. He suffered a concussion in the Bengals game and after missing practice on Wednesday, left Thursday's practice after getting dizzy. He's questionable, like Bryant, but it would be a surprise if he plays.

The run game gets better: With DeMarco Murray's return, the Cowboys have rushed for 172 yards and rushed 57 times the last two games. The Cowboys need Murray's ability to make plays in the run game, regardless of how the line is playing and coach Jason Garrett trusts Murray more than Felix Jones when it comes to running the ball. If the game remains close, or the Cowboys have a lead, expect Murray to get touches, like 15-to-25.

Welcome back Todd Haley: The Steelers offensive coordinator was a receivers coach with the Cowboys from 2004-to-2005 and then he moved to passing game coordinator in 2006. Haley leads an offense that's 11th in total offense, but has just the 25th rushing offense in the NFL.

A tribute for Jerry Brown: The Cowboys will wear a No. 53 decal on their helmets to honor practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown, who died last week in a single-car accident in which teammate Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter. There will be a moment of silence before the game for Brown and for the victim's of Friday's school shooting in Connecticut.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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