What We Saw: Cowboys at Steelers

Dan Adams recaps the Hall of Fame Game, as we got our first look at rookie Najee Harris.

Cowboys @ Steelers

 

Football is back! Tonight may have just been the start of the preseason, but after not having a preseason last year it felt good to have this game back. The Hall of Fame game is typically filled with mostly depth guys, and tonight was no exception. The Cowboys opted to sit their starters, and barely even played backup running back Tony Pollard. We did get to see Michah Parsons make his debut, and he recovered a fumble in his short time on the field. The Steelers showed us a little more, as Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Najee Harris all played into the second quarter. Overall, this was the type of sloppy and uneventful game that we’ve come to expect from the start of the preseason as both teams missed several kicks and combined to score just 19 points. The Steelers won 16-3 behind touchdowns from Kalen Ballage and Tyler Simmons.

 

Dallas Cowboys

 

Quarterback

 

Garrett Gilbert: 9/13, 104 yards, 1 fumble, 2 sacks 

Cooper Rush: 8/13, 70 yards

Ben DiNucci: 7/16, 89 yards, 1 INT, 1 fumble, 2 sacks | 2 carries, 34 yards

 

With Dak Prescott returning from a major ankle injury and currently working through a shoulder injury, the Cowboys’ backup quarterback spot seems like one of the more important positions on the team. Garrett Gilbert got the start tonight and led two long drives that resulted in two field-goal attempts, one of which resulted in the only points the Cowboys would score. The Cowboys’ starting offensive line struggled with the Steelers’ pass rush, but Gilbert showed some ability to extend the play and keep his eyes downfield. He was fortunate to not throw an interception on one such extended play where he hit a defensive back in the hands but otherwise looked solid against the Steelers’ backups. Cooper Rush followed Gilbert and did not really show much. Ben DiNucci closed out the game by turning the ball over twice. DiNucci can run a little, but aside from that he still looks overmatched on the field.

  

Running Backs

 

Rico Dowdle: 8 carries, 43 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards

Tony Pollard: 2 carries, 9 yards

Brenden Knox: 4 carries, 12 yards | 1 target

 

Ezekiel Elliott appeared on the broadcast tonight to speak about his renewed dedication to offseason conditioning but did not take the field. Backup Tony Pollard handled two carries and left the game after the first series, indicating that his position on the team as Elliott’s primary backup is secure. Rico Dowdle handled most of the backfield duties and looked like one of the better players on the field. He’s a name to keep in mind should Elliott or Pollard go down with an injury during the season. The Cowboys’ offensive line appears to be much healthier heading into this season, so any running back that gets touches in this offense will have fantasy value.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Malik Turner: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 47 yards,  1 fumble 

Cedrick Wilson: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards

Noah Brown: 1 target, 1 reception, 7 yards

Aaron Parker: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 39 yards

Dalton Schultz: 2 targets, 1 reception, 15 yards

Sean McKeon: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards

Simi Fehoko: 2 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards

 

Amari Cooper is currently injured, and neither CeeDee Lamb nor Michael Gallup saw any work tonight. That left Malik TurnerCedrick Wilson, and Noah Brown as the primary receivers. Turner flashed the most, but he ended his longest reception by fumbling the ball.

 

 

None of the three are likely to have much fantasy relevance this season beyond stealing a touchdown here and there. Dalton Schultz did not play much, and he figures to still have a role this season even with Blake Jarwin returning from injury.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Quarterback

 

Mason Rudolph: 6/9, 84 yards, 1 fumble | 1 carry

Dwayne Haskins: 8/13, 54 yards | 2 carries, 4 yards

Joshua Dobbs: 4/6, 37 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble, 1 sack

 

Ben Roethlisberger sat out tonight but we got a good look at the players vying to be his backup. Mason Rudolph had a tough start to the game, as he mistimed a handoff to Chase Claypool and lost the football.

 

 

Rudolph responded later in the game by throwing a nice deep ball to Claypool, but aside from that 45-yard completion, he was very underwhelming. Dwayne Haskins has been getting a lot of buzz out of training camp and he led two scoring drives. Haskins did not exactly dominate the third-string defense like you’d expect a former first-round pick to do, but he did enough to stay within striking distance of Rudolph. Joshua Dobbs came in and put the game away, absorbing a hit to throw a touchdown to Tyler Simmons.

 

 

Running Backs

 

Najee Harris: 7 carries, 22 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards

Jaylen Samuels: 11 carries, 20 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards

Anthony McFarland: 3 carries, 9 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards

Kalen Ballage: 5 carries, 19 yards, 1 TD

 

The biggest offseason addition for the Steelers was spending a first-round pick on Najee Harris, and they did not wait to debut their new offensive toy. Harris was involved early and played well into the second quarter. Pittsburgh has talked all offseason about wanting to have a more balanced offense and treat Harris like a true bell-cow running back, and if tonight is any indication that is still the plan. He did not have any flashy plays, but he also did not appear to have any mistakes which is a good sign for a rookie playing in his first game. Anthony McFarland started the game as the kick returner and was the second running back onto the field, despite dealing with a thigh injury in practice. Kalen Ballage scored a touchdown to remind fantasy managers that he is still in the NFL.

 

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Diontae Johnson: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards

Chase Claypool: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 62 yards

Anthony Johnson: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards, 1 fumble 

Tyler Simmons: 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards, 1 TD

Kevin Rader: 2 targets, 1 reception, 15 yards

Ray-Ray McCloud: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards | 1 carry, 2 yards

 

Juju Smith-Schuster and Eric Ebron got the night off, but Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool both saw extended playing time. Johnson caught a short pass and a screen pass, while Claypool had the biggest play of the night when he reeled in a deep pass from Mason Rudolph for 45 yards.

 

 

Claypool appeared to suffer an injury after laying out for the ball, but Mike Tomlin said after the game that he was fine. Claypool could also be seen celebrating on the sideline during the game, so it appears there is nothing to worry about. James Washington did not come down with either of his targets and was behind Ray-Ray McCloud in three-receiver sets to start the game. Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth missed this game with an injury he suffered in practice.

 

 

Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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