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Steelers Film Room: Stretch the Dallas defense, abuse the middle of the field

The Steelers have a tall task ahead of them vs. the Cowboys in Week 10, but the Dallas defense is certainly the vulnerable aspect of the team.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s do or die, if the Steelers lose this game, their division hopes along with their playoff hopes will be greatly diminished in a record heavy AFC. Going up against the team in the NFC with the best record in the Dallas Cowboys will be a tough task that will require players to step up in all 3 phases.

The addition of Ladarius Green off the PUP list could not have come at a better time as the Steelers have struggled in recent weeks and are in need of a spark on offense.

Right now we’re going to take a look at how the Steelers should attack this Cowboys’ defense.

Attack the Secondary

I’m going to rewind back to 2014, Le’Veon Bell before he went on an absolute tear at the end of season. It was week 8 and the Steelers were taking on a red hot Colts team that was ranked well defensively and offensively. Le’Veon took a backseat to Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant that day and Ben had a prolific game.

This is one of those type of games where offensive balance might need to be sacrificed for the sake of attacking the weakness. If anything the pass might need to be what sets up the run in this game as the Cowboys have strong defense against the run (4th in the league).

The difference between Baltimore and the Cowboys against the run is that Baltimore has faced 30 more rushing attempts and have allowed less yardage along with keeping opposing teams under 4 yards per carry, something that Dallas has not done.

However, I simply cannot overlook the fact that Ladarius Green is going to be back for this game as I believe his presence will be a huge factor in this game and the reason I say this is because Dallas struggled with a TE similar to the mold Green earlier in the season.

This is Jordan Reed and he’s a mismatch nightmare who gets the pleasure of being covered by a LB down the middle of the field.

Ladarius Green is basically the same mold of TE that Jordan Reed is, he can stretch you vertically down the middle and he do damage after the catch.

This type of matchups will eventually end up calling upon Byron Jones who is known for being great matchup on athletic TE’s such as Green or Reed.

Problem is even if Byron Jones is that guy and he proves to contain Ladarius Green, you’re asking your defense to use single high safety looks and if Dallas thinks they’re going to cover Antonio Brown 1 on 1 with no help and without the services of Morris Claiborne, they might want to rethink how that would go.

Even if Antonio Brown wasn’t such a pain in the butt to cover, focusing on stopping the TE’s like Reed or Green will lead to mismatches with a LB and a RB.

You see that RB in the backfield, that’s Chris Thompson by the way who’s an excellent receiving back but not a 3 down player like Bell who you need to account for every play. The slot WR is Jamison Crowder who’s excellent in space and working underneath. The pass isn’t completed to Thompson but do you see the space that he and Crowder (the slot WR) has? You see the issue Dallas could run into here, because I do and it’s tantalizing to think about.

When you spread out the defense like this, they can’t cover everybody and if they want to double or bracket AB and have Byron Jones on Ladarius Green 1 on 1, first off, just how much space is there underneath and 2nd off who’s covering Bell or Rogers underneath?

I know how this sounds but don’t tell me Pittsburgh doesn’t have the upper hand here if they intend to use Green. Dallas struggled against the Redskins athletic TE’s Davis and Reed, giving up 121 yards and 10 receptions combined against them. They can be beaten by athletic TE’s such as this especially when they’re without Church and Claiborne because then it forces Dallas to not play their cards by using Jones on Green because if they did that, then everywhere else on the field get’s opened up and you’re now having to worry about getting torched underneath and not being able to have someone bracket AB. This is a problem that Pittsburgh must and has to exploit because it’s their best method of attacking this Dallas defense and it’ll help with the pass being able to set up the run if you so please would like to keep the defense honest.

Dallas plays a lot of man with mostly a sprinkle of cover 2 and cover 1. This lack of creativity and counting the injuries in the secondary could kill Dallas if Pittsburgh decides to get their crap together on offense which starts with the deliverer of the football, Ben Roethlisbeger. QB play is the big reason why Washington lost such a close game to Dallas even with a good offensive gameplan that stretched out their defense so much, Kirk Cousins threw a crucial pick in the 4th quarter and that’s the lesson.

If Ben doesn’t play well, the Steelers aren’t going to win (captain obvious alert), if he does and they use a gameplan similar to what the Redskins used against Dallas, it’s possible, they aren’t unbeatable.


Yes I realize Ben has struggled throwing over the middle this season but you know what, living in your fears and not attacking the defense where they are vulnerable is what I’d rather not have happen. Ben needs to be great if this team is going to win, and that’s what elite QB’s do, they step up in big games.

This is only one phase of game, Pittsburgh is very capable of winning on offense if Ben is on his A game and they come with the right game plan to attack that Cowboy’s secondary.

They aren’t going to just win by playing well on offense but it increases their chances by a lot if they do. Ben has to be great and the Steelers have to win in all 3 phases.

Pittsburgh is capable of winning this game and they must or their season will be in jeopardy.