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Five Key Cowboys to Watch

The Steelers need to be well-prepared in their Week 14 match-up against the Cowboys. As Seattle saw, a lack of time to prepare for them is a huge deterrent.

Not that Seattle is a great team, but the fact the Cowboys have so many individual weapons makes them a nightmare for coaches, especially in a short week.

The Steelers can match up with them one-to-one, but coaching and scheme will be the difference in the best game of the week. Here are the five key players for the Cowboys with analysis of them, both good and bad.

1. Tony Romo

PRO: The testament to the leauge that the quarterback position is extremely difficult to gauge. Undrafted, Romo is one of the highest rated passers in NFL history. With six touchdowns to one interception since coming back from a finger injury, Romo can make a strong claim to the league's MVP award.

CON: While he shredded Seattle's defense for 334 yards and three touchdowns on 22-for-35 passing, he's not exactly facing the 2-10 Seahawks. While it's paramount for the Steelers defense to keep Romo in check and inside the pocket, Romo has a sizeable task in avoiding pressure and maintaining possession. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers was the highest-rated passer in the league before the Steelers got to him. He put up a miserable 43 rating in Week 11, and was unable to complete anything significant or consistent down the field.

2. Jason Witten

PRO: Witten was the benefactor of Romo's excellent performance against the Seahawks. With nine catches and 115 yards, Witten sent the Seahawks into convulsions. He's as agile as any tight end in the league, and has remarkably soft hands. His ability to own the seam is as much a benefit to the Cowboys running game as anything else, because he forces defenses to check him with a safety, and follow him out of the box.

CON: The Steelers give up catches to tight ends (see Kellen Winslow's seven-catch, 55 yard performance in Week 2 and Chris Cooley's eight-catch, 78 yard day in Week 9), but a tight end has not been able to have a large amount of success against them. This is largely credited to the Steelers' elite linebacking corps and a secondary that plays with discipline. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Cowboys make Witten the main focus of their offense Sunday, if for no other reason than to get a linebacker pulled out of the box, or try to keep SS Troy Polamalu out of the center of the field - where he is at his best.

3. DeMarcus Ware

PRO: Big, long and rangy, Ware has a fully-stocked arsenal of pass-rushing moves, and it's next to impossible to shut him out over four quarters. He's just as strong straight ahead as he is in pursuit, and is equally effective against the run and pass. LT Max Starks will have to play a very disciplined game, and rely on a lot of help to keep Ware out of the Steelers' backfield.

CON: The Steelers have put together a nice offensive stretch recently, and much of this is due to the excellent decision-making from QB Ben Roethlisberger. Very simply, he's taken one sack in the past two games because he hasn't held onto the ball very long. Ware can be made a non-factor statistically (he's already disrupting the Steelers game plan by drawing so much attention) by Roethlisberger's poise and definitive choices in the passing game. Roethlisberger is one of the game's best cold-weather passers, and his defense is playing on a different level from the rest of the league right now, so keeping Ware out of the outcome isn't as important as maintaining possession of the ball.

4. Roy E. Williams

PRO: In a spot typically reserved for WR Terrell Owens, this game shows a match-up advantage favoring the former Lions receiver. The Cowboys are likely going to try to get Owens in motion, and get him the ball in space. There will be 11 Steelers defenders greatly interested in what Owens does pre-snap, especially CB Ike Taylor, who could potentially shadow Owens all game, and Romo is smart enough to see the times when young CB William Gay is locked on Williams. RIvers went after Gay for much of the second half with some success.

CON: Much like Rivers saw, Gay eventually stepped up to the challenge and locked down the out routes. The Steelers have tremendous playmakers in their secondary, and with the likely return of CB Bryant McFadden mixed in possibly as the nickel back for this game, they may be able to hide personnel match-ups with Gay floating zone with a safety over the top of Williams. Romo's pre-snap read hasn't always been the most accurate in the league. Williams will have to stay in tune with Romo all game.

 5. Andre Gurode

PRO: Gurode has the quickness and leverage to battle Steelers NT Casey Hampton, regardless if it's Marion Barber (injury, listed as questionable) or Tashard Choice in the backfield. Gurode anchors the Cowboys offensive line and while the Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, they haven't faced a center at Gurode's level yet.

CON: Conversely, Gurode hasn't gone against a nose tackle at Hampton's level yet. Hampton had a momentum-swinging sack against New England in Week 13, and is the key component to the Steelers top-ranked run defense. That came on a straight bull-rush, but Hampton is even better at filling the gap and slanting inside to occupy blockers. Gurode has to keep square with Hampton and not allow the penetration that has been essential in the Steelers' efforts to allow less than 70 yards rushing per game.