Time and space issue in Steelers matchup vs. Cowboys


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Part of the reason Ben Roethlisberger was under so much pressure against the San Diego Chargers was he couldn't find open receivers. And part of the reason they weren't open was because the receivers weren't always where they were supposed to be.

The Chargers did a good job of pressing the Steelers receivers at the line of scrimmage, forcing them to re-route their patterns and give the pass rush an extra second to pressure Roethlisberger. A lot of their attention seemed to be focused on Antonio Brown, who is playing on a bad ankle.

The Steelers are expecting the Dallas Cowboys to try the same thing today when the teams meet at Cowboys Stadium.

"We all have to be better this week because they're going to do it," said wide receiver Mike Wallace. "Any time you see things from the other team that worked, they're going to take it into the next week."

After converting just one of their first eight third-down chances, the Steelers started to adjust to the pressure in the second half. But, after the Chargers scored two touchdowns in a span of 12 seconds in the third quarter, the game was over.

"Any time you're applying pressure, you want to get some re-routes going on so the quarterback can hold the ball just a little while longer so guys can get to him," said wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. "That's what teams try to bank on. You know, when you got fast guys, and we have fast guys like that, you're going to try to slow it down a little bit."

The Cowboys revamped their secondary this year to add free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr, the type of big, physical corner that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan prefers for his man-pressure defense. They also moved up in the draft to select cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick.

The result: The Cowboys have gone from 23rd in the league in pass defense in 2011 to No. 8 this season. They are allowing an average of 27 yards fewer per game (217.8) and have allowed fewer big pass plays than in 2011, but they have made a sacrifice by having fewer interceptions (a league-low six), giving them with fewer picks than the Steelers (7)

How much success they have against Roethlisberger and the Steelers wide receivers, particularly Brown, will determine the outcome of the game.

"Obviously, we weren't able to get adjusted to it soon enough [against the Chargers] because we go into halftime down, 13-3, and the second half goes by so fast," Cotchery said. "Once we did, it was way too late. But we're prepared."

Wallace was in the wrong place on one of his routes -- the deep pass from Roethlisberger that he dropped in the second quarter -- but it wasn't because of what the Chargers did. Wallace incorrectly ran a post route toward the middle of the field and got caught out of position on the pass.

"All three of us, all four of us, whoever is going to be out there, we're going to focus and we got our heads in the game and we're going to try to make plays," Wallace said. "We have a stretch to make right here, and I know, for one, I'm locked in."

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