Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Tipping Point

The Steelers vs. Cowboys: "Two trains on a track," as Mike Tomlin would say.
As the Steelers prepare to trudge into Cowboys Stadium on Sunday, it's almost easy to overlook the fact that this is a match-up of two 7-6 teams.  All season, most Steelers' fans looking at the schedule pointed to this as a winnable game, just as Denver, Tennessee, Oakland, Cleveland and San Diego also appeared to be winnable games.

From the Dallas viewpoint, though, the Steelers must look eminently beatable ("defeat-capable" as Mike Tomlin might say). At this point of the schedule, Tony Romo & Co. must be licking their proverbial chops at the prospect of facing a reeling Steelers team with an injury-depleted secondary and leaky offensive line coming into Jerry Jones's Megaplexopalos, the DFW Metroplex's video-screen-dominated monstrosity sports-and-entertainment palace.

No doubt, the Cowboys and their fans see this as "a winnable game" for Dallas.

The Cowboys always seem to be loaded with talent, but they chronically under-achieve. Head coach Jason Garrett's career record is just 20-17 in this, his third season, with no playoff appearances. By comparison, Mike Tomlin, now in his sixth season, has won exactly twice as many regular-season games as he's lost, 62-31, for a career winning percentage of .667.

By the way, it's worth noting that Tomlin's career regular-season winning percentage is the highest among active NFL coaches who have coached at least 80 games, ahead of Mike McCarthy (.661 with Green Bay), Bill Belichick (.649 at Cleveland and New England) and Andy Reid (.591 in Philadelphia).

So, with both teams at 7-6, Sunday's game represents a tipping point of sorts for the Steelers and Cowboys. The winning team makes a statement abut the direction it's taking, catapults itself to an 8-6 record, and maintains peripheral relevance in the continuing discussion of potential playoff scenarios. The losing squad goes home to regroup and answer more questions about what went wrong.

One presumes the Cowboys want this win very badly.  The question is, "Do the Steelers?"

It's a fair question in light of their performance vs. San Diego last Sunday.

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