Only two days remain before the start of the NFL season, as the Hall of Fame Game will kick off what will hopefully be a banner year for football. The Dallas Cowboys will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday and, while most of the teams’ regular starters aren’t likely to take the field, there will still be plenty to look forward to.
The Cowboys Hope to Rebound
The Cowboys want to bounce back after a dismal performance last year that included the loss of their star quarterback, Dak Prescott. Overall, Prescott is back in business throughout training camp, but the franchise player recently hit a small snag as he still recovers from last year’s injuries. He reportedly experienced shoulder discomfort heading into the first padded practice of training camp. The 28-year-old doesn’t seem overly concerned, however, and is ready for the field. He’s been taking it easy, having last participated in drills with the team on July 28.
Despite the ongoing health issues, Prescott is still getting a lot of support ahead of the new season. Looking at some of the NFL prop bet odds, he’s second in terms of overall passing yards, only slightly behind Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. If Prescott’s injuries are truly behind him, bettors can expect to see a lot of great things this year.
Defensive Improvements Still Needed
While the offense will be better under Prescott, the Cowboys still need to work on their defense. It has already shown improvements in training camp, but the practices show that more work is needed. Last year, the Cowboys’ defense allowed a franchise record of 473 points, and that isn’t something Jerry Jones wants to see repeated.
This year, defensive players have been much better in team practice drills, according to several sources, and have improved significantly in interceptions and line penetrations. There were five passes picked off during the Cowboys’ first padded practice and, in a two-day span, the defense picked off eight passes from the QBs. Most of those came through backup quarterbacks, but Prescott was picked off three times on July 28. Slot cornerback Maurice Canady, who sat out last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and rookie linebacker Micah Parsons have been most active, collecting multiple interceptions in camp so far.
Steelers Look to Tweak
The Steelers had a solid run last season before falling short of making it through the playoffs. As the Hall of Fame Game approaches, one of four preseason games for the Steelers, fans shouldn’t expect to see big names suiting up to take the field. According to head coach Mike Tomlin, who met with the media to talk about the upcoming game today, several players who not be participating in this Thursday’s game.
Logically, most of those that will be sitting out are the team’s veterans, with the younger players and rookies needing to prove themselves. QB Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward and Joe Haden are definitely not playing, but Tomlin indicates that the coaching staff is still making a determination on several other players.
Big Ben Not Expected to Make Big Plays
Roethlisberger’s energy is likely going to be saved for the regular season, which will get underway on September 9. The Steelers won’t play their first game until September 12, when they face the Buffalo Bills, and Big Ben needs to be as healthy as possible if the Steelers expect to do better than last year’s 12-4 that made them miss a Super Bowl. Although they made it to the playoffs, a poor showing against the Cleveland Browns saw them exit in their Wild Card match.
The Steelers will look for better offensive performances this year, but Roethlisberger isn’t getting a lot of attention. In overall rushing yards, he’s 12th on the list, behind QBs like Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert at +3300. Things could be worse, but the two-time Super Bowl champion has his work cut out for him this season.