The NFL season kicked off with no major injuries, so call it a victory, even though it was a 16-3 preseason-opening win by the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday in Canton. Our top 10 Whitty Observations ...
10. LIPSTICK ON A PIG Neither Dak Prescott nor Ben Roethlisberger suited up and this extra pre-season game was extra meaningless. Nonetheless, for some reason it always stings to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
9. STAR UP Linebacker Jabril Cox, running back Rico Dowdle and receiver Malik Turner made multiple plays that lead us to believe they can - at the very least - find a spot on the final 53-man roster. Oh, and it's good to see a healthy La'el Collins looking slim and starting at right tackle.
8. STAR DOWN As a punter, Hunter Niswander is a horrible kicker.
With Greg Zuerlein back in Oxnard nursing a back injury, Niswander filled in with disastrous results. He quacked through a 29-yard field goal at the end of Dallas' first drive, but later had a kick blocked and missed another long one by a good 15 yards right.
7. POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION While the Steelers merely bussed two hours from Canton back to their training camp in Pittsburgh, the Cowboys' trek was considerably more taxing. A 90-minute bus ride to the airport in Cleveland, followed by a four-hour flight to Los Angeles and finally a 90-minute bus to Oxnard seems like a lot of travel for an exhibition in which you failed to score a touchdown.
6. DiNUCCI DiNOT DiANSWER Not sure where the Cowboys will wind up for a No. 2 quarterback to Prescott, but second-year slinger Ben DiNucci can't be the final destination.
I realize he's the Pittsburgh-native pet of head coach Mike McCarthy, but let's be honest, he's not an NFL quarterback. He showed nothing in his only start last season at Philadelphia and even less against the Steelers.
5. SILVER (AND BLUE) LINING The Cowboys lost the Hall of Fame Game, which – according to their history – means they’re going to the playoffs. Dallas is now 3-4 all-time in Canton. In the three seasons they won, no playoffs. The three seasons they lost (1968, 1979 and 1999) ended with a playoff berth.
4. DAK UPDATE Prescott didn't travel to Canton, but he did pop on with the Fox crew at halftime to offer a very generic update on his strained throwing shoulder.
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"I'm just getting myself healthy," Prescott said. "Doing what I need to do to get ready to get back on the field with my teammates."
Difficult to decide which was more boring: Prescott's interview or Cowboys-Steelers.
3. DEJA BOO Garrett Gilbert holding the ball too long. DiNucci's funky sidearm delivery, even when unnecessary. And only three points on the scoreboard. This game game was eerily similar to 2020's first three outings after Prescott's season-ending injury in which the offense managed only 10, three and nine points.
Gilbert played two series and completed 9 of 13 passes for 104 yards for a 93.1 rating.
"In preseason football, you're looking for drives to be established," McCarthy said. "Anytime you can get into double-digits (plays) on a drive … so we were able to move the ball. We stalled down there in the red (zone) area. But I thought Gilbert did a really good job ... But I thought he was very productive in his work."
OK, but ...
Against the Steelers, the Cowboys got a turnover, converted it into a field goal and then ... fell asleep for the game's final 53 minutes.
2. REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO ... Predictable.
While owner Jerry Jones' "soft" announcement on Fox's pre-game show that Jimmy Johnson would be inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor might have shocked America, it merely triple-confirmed the worst-kept secret in DFW. It's long been only a question of when, not if.
1. MIKE MICAH First-round draft choice Micah Parsons was in the middle of everything, though he didn't make any outstanding plays (his first-quarter fumble recovery was merely a case of being in the right place at the right time, though he has a knack for that). But it was telling that the middle linebacker wore the green-dot sticker on his helmet, meaning coaches trust him enough to be the defense's primary signal-caller. Yes, already.
"Now I feel like I can just use those two series to build on, get ready to play the scrimmage on Saturday (actually a practice in Oxnard with the Rams) and get ready to play next Friday (at Arizona), too," he said, rattling off the Cowboys calendar. "I know it's going to be a long year and they're telling me to slow down, but I'm ready to go right now."