Cowboys' weight will dominate Smaller Steelers sure to be worn down by Dallas offensive line

Pittsburgh must gamble

Dallas likes matchup against 3-4 defense

January 28, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There are five big reasons the Dallas Cowboys will beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX today.

From left to right: tackle Mark Tuinei, guard Nate Newton, center Derek Kennard, guard Larry Allen and tackle Erik Williams. These offensive linemen will block the Steelers' route to a fifth Super Bowl title. They could block off I-95. Both north and south.

That's why the Cowboys have been roaming the streets of Tempe in $1,000-a-day limousines and predicting a victory. Nearly a ton of humanity on the front line can produce a swagger.

"I was so impressed with their offensive line. The way they kept grinding and grinding," said Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown, whose team lost to the Cowboys, 34-21, this season. "What the Cowboys did to our defensive line was unbelievable. Teams can play with the Cowboys for three quarters, but almost no one can for four. They will definitely dominate."

Will it be a close game?

Maybe, but the weight will take its toll on the Steelers, just as it did on the Raiders. The key for Pittsburgh will come in the first quarter.

The Cowboys have a solid nucleus of players who have played in two of the past three Super Bowls. The Steelers have not been in the Big Show since 1980.

Pittsburgh will be more emotional and have less pressure. But if the Cowboys take an early lead, the Steelers' confidence will fade quickly. The Steelers have to gamble on first downs, throw when they're expected to run, and run when they're expected to throw.

"There's no tomorrow, so why save any of the new wrinkles until next year?" Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell said with a wink. "We've got to keep them off-balance, keep them guessing. Dallas has the ability to jump on you early and blow you out. Then you start wondering what is going on, and then everything starts to steamroll against you.

"If we're in the game in the third quarter, I really do believe that we can make a run at it. Anything can happen in the fourth period."

O'Donnell is the X-factor. He has to have a great game, which he is capable of, but he also can play poorly. He doesn't have the luxury of Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman, who has so many game-breaking weapons.

O'Donnell can't run. He won't run. The Cowboys still remember the season opener in 1994, when O'Donnell was sacked nine times in a 26-9 loss and Steelers coach Bill Cowher screamed at him on the sidelines.

"He's not the same quarterback when he's under pressure," said Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Campo. "We'd like to try and keep him moving."

O'Donnell might become an easy target if the Steelers can't run inside. Forget outside; the Cowboys are too fast. The Steelers have to run Bam Morris and Erric Pegram inside the tackles. Some teams have done that successfully, but that was when Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett was out for a drug suspension or moved to defensive end to fill in for the injured Charles Haley.

Lett has played extremely well in the playoffs. Just ask Philadelphia guard Guy McIntyre, or Eagles coach Ray Rhodes.

"He dominated our running game by himself," said Rhodes, whose Eagles were 1-2 against the Cowboys this season. "There is no player in football playing as well as Lett right now."

Pittsburgh's defense will give Dallas some trouble, and the Steelers will be inspired by the return of cornerback Rod Woodson from a knee injury.

It will be the first time the Cowboys have faced a 3-4 defense this season. The Steelers will run stunts on the defensive line to penetrate and confuse the Cowboys, and blitz from zone and man coverage.

Pittsburgh outside linebackers Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene will provide strong outside rushes, but the Steelers have too many weaknesses in the secondary.

Pittsburgh allowed an average of 244.8 yards passing during the regular season, and it is weak in covering passes down the middle. Expect Dallas tight end Jay Novacek to have a big day because both Pittsburgh safeties are slow.

But this day will belong to the Dallas offensive line. The 3-4 defense allows Newton and Allen to get 3- to 4-yard running starts on inside linebackers Levon Kirkland (264 pounds), Jerry Olsavsky (221) and Chad Brown (240).

The Cowboys like those odds.

"People talk about the 3-4 confusing us," said Newton. "But that puts me on a linebacker. I'll take 360 over 260 any time."

It's a cliche, but teams that run the ball well in December win in January. Look at recent Super Bowl winners, such as the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and the Cowboys themselves.

Sure, the San Francisco 49ers won without a great running game, but they had Steve Young, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and John Taylor.

Neil O'Donnell and Yancey Thigpen? Nah.

3 It could be close for a while, and the Steelers are always a crashing Lloyd helmet away from putting Aikman or running back Emmitt Smith out of the game, injuries from which the Cowboys probably wouldn't recover.

=1 But on a straight-up basis, it's the Cowboys.

Super Bowl XXX

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5)

Vs. Dallas Cowboys (14-4)

Time: Today, 6:20 p.m.

Site: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.

TV: Chs. 11,4

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Cowboys by 13 1/2

Weather: Scattered clouds with a high of 69. Almost no chance op rain.

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