The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 24-19 on Sunday, improving to their record to a perfect 8-0.
Chase Claypool was a key factor in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack, making a team-leading eight receptions for 69 yards. Now at the midway point of his rookie season, the native of Abbotsford, B.C. has 31 catches for 444 yards, six carries for 21 yards, and seven total touchdowns.
Claypool wasn’t the only Canadian who had an impact on Sunday’s game as Neville Gallimore and Tyrone Crawford made plays along the Cowboys’ defensive line.
Gallimore recorded two total tackles, one tackle for loss, and a hit on Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter. The quarterback grabbed his knee following the collision but stayed in the game to finish the drive before leaving for the locker room. Roethlisberger returned in the second half, completing 29-of-42 pass attempts for 306 yards and three touchdowns.
Gallimore also helped force a turnover early in the second quarter when the Steelers ran the ball on fourth-and-one. The Ottawa native got early penetration, causing Pittsburgh running back Benny Snell to change direction in the backfield. He was stopped for no gain, which led to a Dallas touchdown drive.
The 2020 third-round pick has steadily taken more snaps as the season has progressed. Dallas released veteran defensive tackle Dontari Poe two weeks ago, which proves they are confident in Gallimore’s abilities.
Crawford blocked Chris Boswell’s convert attempt late in the third quarter, taking a point off the board for Pittsburgh. The Windsor native made another big play in the fourth quarter when he strip-sacked Roethlisberger. The play was nullified by a penalty — coincidentally, the flag was drawn by Claypool — wiping it off the stat sheet.
The Cowboys started Garrett Gilbert on Sunday, the team’s fourth different starting quarterback of the season. Veterans Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton remain out due to injury, while rookie Ben DiNucci was benched after last week’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones was frank in his assessment of DiNucci’s play, criticizing him heavily in an interview with 105.3 The Fan.
“I think that it was a lot for him,” said Jones. “I think we certainly, as a team, paid the price to have him come in and under those circumstances. And that’s almost trite. It was frankly more than he could handle.”
Ouch. The Cowboys invested time and money scouting DiNucci before they selected him in the seventh round of this year’s NFL draft. The coaching staff has spent countless hours working with him in the film room and on the practice field ever since.
It was foolish for Jones to criticize a first-year player so harshly after just one start. DiNucci wasn’t even that bad considering the circumstances, completing 21 of 40 pass attempts for 180 yards.
Gilbert was a member of six different NFL teams before signing with the Cowboys last month, though he hadn’t started a game until Sunday. He made his name as the quarterback of the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football in 2019, passing for 2,152 yards and becoming a strong candidate for MVP.
The Southern Methodist University product completed 21-of-38 pass attempts for 243 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in his first start. He also recorded three carries for 28 yards. Dallas dropped to 2-6 through eight games.
The Steelers (8-0) have reached the midway point of their season as the NFL’s last remaining undefeated team.
Only one squad has ever finished the regular season with a 16-0 record — the 2007 New England Patriots. Going undefeated is exceptionally difficult, but it doesn’t seem impossible for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are scheduled to host the Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) next week in the first of two meetings this season. Joe Burrow is enjoying a strong rookie season, but his team had the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft for a reason.
Pittsburgh also has dates with Jacksonville (1-7) and Washington (2-6), neither of which should put up a strong fight. The club’s remaining four games won’t be a cakewalk — vs. Baltimore (6-2), at Buffalo (7-2), vs. Indianapolis (5-3), and at Cleveland (5-3).
Finishing the season with an undefeated record won’t be necessary for the Steelers provided they can capture the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The first step to accomplishing that is finishing with a better record than the Ravens; the second step is finishing above the Chiefs (8-1).
We all know that Canadian players can help decide the outcome of games in the CFL. Sunday was a reminder that Canadians can make a big difference in determining NFL games as well, particularly Claypool on the league’s best team.