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Analyzing the Steelers Hall of Fame Game win over the Cowboys, by the numbers

It took some time to get on the scoreboard, but ultimately the Steelers left Ohio with a 16-3 victory.

Dallas Cowboys v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 season has kicked off! It has been more than 200 days since our beloved Steelers last took the field, and the Hall of Fame Game gave us a look at part of the Steelers’ roster for the upcoming season. With no preseason games last season, there are plenty of Steelers’ fans excited about seeing new players and specific camp battles.

Now that the 2021 season is getting underway, here are some of the numbers involved in the Steelers win over the Cowboys.


The Pittsburgh Steelers defense continued to bring the pressure to start off the 2021 preseason on the right foot. The Steelers notched four sacks in the game which were registered by four different players. Alex Highsmith, Cassius Marsh, Quincy Roche, and Abdullah Anderson each got in on the action. As for Marsh’s sack, it came by forcing a fumble even though the Cowboys recovered.


The Steelers managed to have zero pre-snap penalties on either side of the ball. Early in the preseason, it’s often common for teams to have either an illegal formation, false start, or defensive offsides at some point. But the Steelers only had three penalties on the day with a roughing the passer, pass interference, and an illegal block. The penalty by tight end Marcus Baugh was the only offensive penalty in the game for the Steelers, but it did manage to stall the drive where the Steelers had to settle for a field goal.


Although the Steelers did have an ugly turnover, having three takeaways to give them a turnover margin of +2 was welcomed start to the season. With an interception and two fumble recoveries, one of which came on special teams, the Steelers turnovers weren’t simply about their opponents miscues but they made the play on the majority of their takeaways. Unfortunately, the Steelers turnover was based on their own miscue and not the Cowboys forcing the takeaway other than pouncing on the ball.


Kicker Sam Sloman had a very rough night for the Steelers. Not only was he one for two in field goals, he was also one for two in extra points. After missing a 49-yard field goal in the first half, Sloman bounced back to hit a 48 yarder after he had missed the extra point on the previous drive.


With Pressley Harvin III getting all the action at punter on Thursday night, he did a lot to impress. Downing the ball inside the 20 on three of his four punts, the masterpiece was his second punt of the night which landed at the 1 yard line and was downed there without bounding into the end zone. The only punt of the night which did not go inside the 20 was a shorter punt with a fantastic bounce for the Steelers in which it hit off the returner for a Pittsburgh recovery. Had to returner not been there and let the ball go, it likely would have bounced inside the 20 as well as the Steelers took over at the Cowboys 26 yard line.


Ignoring the single kneel down which ended the first half, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed a first down on all but one of their drives. The Steelers only had one three and out the entire night, and it just so happened to be on the punt where they recovered the ball.


The longest offensive play by either team on the night was the 45-yard catch by Chase Claypool for Mason Rudolph. Although he was down on the field after the play, Claypool appeared to be alright as he cheered on his teammates in the second half. Unfortunately, it was really the only play the night where the Steelers offense looked to push the ball down the field significantly.


While this number is expected to be high in a preseason game, the Steelers targeted 16 different players in the passing game on Thursday night. Of the 16 players, 11 managed at least one reception. The most targets of any player was to Chase Claypool with four. Add in the fact that Steelers only had 28 pass attempts, it was impressive that they were able to involve so many receivers.


Although it seems special teams have been covered at length, it is one of the main areas to look at during the preseason as players use this in order to find their way onto the 53-man roster. The Steelers did not have any kickoff returns and only had one punt return on the night. But on that one return, wide receiver Matthew Sexton gained 36 yards to the Dallas 33 yard line and set the Steelers up for their first score of the game.


Despite the fact it was a preseason game, any time a defense can hold an NFL team to only three points is impressive. By doing so, in meant the Steelers kept the Cowboys out of the end zone all night. On Dallas’ lone scoring drive, Alex Highsmith’s sack helped kill the drive and make the Cowboys settle for three points. On the other deepest drive of the game, which happened to be the Cowboys’ next possession, the Steelers managed to get a blocked field goal from Tre Norwood. The next deepest drive by the Cowboys was to the Steelers 34-yard line where they attempted a 52-yard field goal just before halftime which was missed wide right.

So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ opening preseason game of the 2021 season. It wasn’t pretty, but the Steelers managed to still win the game and get a good look at a lot of their young players.

So what numbers from Thursday night’s game stand out to you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.