The annual Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers will take place on Aug. 5 to unofficially kick off the 2021 NFL season. Here’s a look at the first exhibition game on the summer calendar.
Dallas Cowboys backups vs Ben Roethlisberger
Dak Prescott will not play in this game as he recovers from a catastrophic ankle injury he suffered last season. The recently-extended Pro Bowler is presently out of commission due to a minor shoulder ailment sustained early in training camp. Prescott has no clear motive to show up in this game.
As for Ben Roethlisberger, this could potentially be the final exhibition opener of his future Hall of Fame career.
Six-win season: Prescott is under pressure to get back to his pre-injury form and help boost a stacked Cowboys offense. The recently-extended quarterback has 45 total touchdowns and only 15 interceptions in his last 21 games. Garrett Gilbert, in his place, will have to show he’s a capable backup in Dallas’ preseason opener.
Big Ben: There was some thought given to the idea that he would leave Pittsburgh after 17 seasons. That didn’t come to fruition. However, he’s 39 years old and in the twilight of his career. There’s a good chance that 2021 will be it for the two-time Super Bowl champion.
Ezekiel Elliott vs Pittsburgh Steelers defensive front
Elliott isn’t expected to do much in this game. With that stated, he should go out on the field for a few of possessions.
Elliott’s career lows: Last season, he only rushed for 979 yards at a rate of 4.0 yards per carry, the lowest average of his career.
The Steel Curtain: The plan for Dallas this summer has to be to get Zeke some touches. It will be a challenging job against a Steelers defense that allowed the fewest running yards in the league last season. Dallas’ offensive line will also be tested in this game.
Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers
Dallas had 34 passing touchdowns and only 10 interceptions last season, which left the metro befuddled. In order to help this unit revive, new coordinator Dan Quinn and his staff wanted to add bright youth to the mix.
WR Development: Joseph, a second-round choice in the NFL Draft in 2021, will be thrust into the fire right away. Dallas’ coaches are likely to match him up with Claypool early in the Hall of Fame Game. Last season, the Steelers’ young receiver caught 62 catches for 873 yards as a rookie.
Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Tomlin vs. Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy looks to be on the hot seat after just one season in Dallas. If the beleaguered head coach wants to stay in Big D for the long run, he’ll have to turn things around in 2021. Injuries will also play a part.
Dallas ended with a 6-10 record in McCarthy’s first season. More than anything, the Cowboys’ ability to stay relevant was hampered by injuries.
Cowbody on the ground: That was as accurate as a lengthy offensive line. Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins started a total of 16 games. That is a difficult obstacle for any team to overcome.
The bottom line: It’ll be fascinating to watch how many starters play in the Dallas Cowboys’ preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In any case, it should be exciting to see football back in Canton in front of a sold-out crowd.