CANTON, Ohio — It’s not often a preseason game can generate interest, but after the way the Steelers ended last year and the changes made for this season, Pittsburgh fans were really ready for some football.
The Steelers officially kicked off the 2021 preseason with a 16-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton on Thursday.
As to be expected, the game started off clearly showing signs both teams still have some work to do. Sloppiness and a lack of either team being able to really get going led to a 3-0 Steelers advantage after the first half.
Mason Rudolph got the start, completing six of his nine pass attempts for 84 yards before being replaced by Dwayne Haskins with a few minutes left in the first half. Rudolph’s day was highlighted by a 45-yard completion to Chase Claypool.
Dwayne Haskins then took over and threw for 54 yards with eight completions from 13 attempts. Nothing major occurred to separate the two, who are clearly in the midst of a competition for the backup job behind veteran Ben Roethlisberger.
The scoring opened up in the second half, beginning with Kalen Ballage finish off a third quarter drive with a short 4-yard touchdown run and then also including Josh Dobbs throwing a short touchdown pass after coming in to finish off the night under center with about nine minutes left in the game.
Defensively, the Steelers defense managed to hold Dallas to only a field goal and was even able to generate several big moments, most notably Antoine Brooks Jr. recovering a fumble, despite playing without many of its key contributors like Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The hope for the Steelers is that this solid effort sparks confidence that can now bleed into the rest of training camp.
While head coach Mike Tomlin is undoubtedly happy to have one game in the books, the Steelers are still left with just as many questions as answers before the regular season officially gets underway.
The Steelers will now continue their preseason by traveling to Philadelphia to play the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday, August 12.