Steelers use strong 2nd half to beat Cowboys 16-3 – 95.5 WSB

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TOWNSHIP, Ohio – (AP) – The Pittsburgh Steelers followed a rocky first half with a solid 30-minute final to beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-3 Thursday night in the first NFL preseason game in two years.

Matthew Sexton’s 36-yard punt return early in the third quarter kicked off the Steelers, and the Cowboys never contested after that.

Last season’s exhibition games were called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So perhaps the enthusiastic crowd was an indication that even for a game between teams using few regulars, the hunger for professional football has not abated.

Or maybe it was just the fact that two of the league’s most popular franchises were on the field during the Hall of Fame game, regardless of how many saves were in action.

“Just being in a stadium full of fans, the energy they provided,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We were without that for a good part of a year.”

As would be expected for the preseason kick-off, the game was marked by patchy attack and special teams – until Sexton arrived.

“Sexton had a big punt return, I thought it got us on fire,” added Tomlin. “It was the springboard for us to move forward.”

Both teams lacked timing with the ball, helping every defense.

Pittsburgh blocked a Hunter Niswander field goal attempt, and Steelers field goalie Sam Sloman missed 49 yards, as well as a botched one more point. Niswander also missed 52 yards and the first half ended 3-0 thanks to Niswander’s 29 yards.

Sexton’s return led to a 4-yard scoring from widely traveled backer Kalen Ballage, now with his fourth team in as many years. Sloman made amends with a 48-yard field goal after a 26-yard interception return from Donovan Stiner.

Dallas left 16 key players at his training base in California, but in the first half he still looked superior to Pittsburgh. This is not the case after half-time.

“It’s more about building on what we’ve accomplished,” said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. “There is certainly a lot of work to be done. We have to play better complementary football…

“The (defensive) operation for the first time, I felt good. We have a lot more to offer.

The Steelers briefly used regulars like receivers Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, linebacker Alex Highsmith and cornerback Cameron Sutton. Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons saw some action, as did right tackle La’el Collins.

“It was great,” said Collins, who missed last season with a hip injury. “It’s been over a year and it’s been a long process to get here. It was good to be on this pitch with my team today.

But it was a night to look at the back of the list. Both defenses were pretty solid, with Pittsburgh’s much-vaunted pass rush putting a lot of pressure on the Dallas quarterbacks. Dwayne Haskins, looking for a job after flopping in Washington, was the Steelers quarterback most of the night, although it was Josh Dobbs who logged in on a touchdown pass from 5 yards to Tyler Simmons to put it away.

INTRO

Nineteen of the 20 inductees alive in the hall were presented before the game. Only former Pittsburgh security Troy Polamalu, who tested positive for COVID-19 and whose presence this weekend is uncertain, was not present.

Former Coach Bill Cowher, Guard Alan Faneca and Pittsburgh Safety Donnie Shell were featured; coach Jimmy Johnson, wide receiver Drew Pearson and Dallas goaltender Cliff Harris; goaltender Steve Hutchinson, who stood out for Minnesota and Seattle; wide receivers Harold Carmichael of Philadelphia, Isaac Bruce of the Rams and Calvin Johnson of Detroit; securities Charles Woodson, a star for Oakland and Green Bay, John Lynch of Tampa Bay and Denver, and Steve Atwater of Denver; former commissioner Paul Tagliabue; coach Tom Flores, who won two Super Bowls with the Raiders; tackle Chicago’s Jimbo Covert; running back Edgerrin James of Indianapolis; and a quarterback named Peyton. Peyton Manning of the Colts and Broncos, of course.

NATION OF STEELS

The Cowboys may be the self-proclaimed American team, but not when they invade Northeast Ohio. Sure, it’s Browns territory, but it’s also just a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

The Hall of Fame stadium was therefore filled with black and gold, with a decent touch of blue and white for the Cowboys.

Naturally, the loudest cheers from the crowd of 20,113 were reserved for former Steelers stars Cowher, Shell and Faneca.

APART

Pittsburgh WR Chase Claypool was rocked on a 45-yard reception in the second quarter, but pulled away on his own. Tomlin said he was fine.

But Ballage suffered a lower body injury that requires further evaluation.

Dallas tackle Isaac Alarcon was assisted off the field in the third period.

NEXT

Dallas plays Arizona next Friday night.

Pittsburgh will face the Eagles in Philadelphia next Thursday night.

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