Commentary

Here are best 20 players in Cowboys-Steelers showdown

Three of the top five players in the Cowboys-Steelers matchup love to attack the quarterback.

Originally Published: December 5, 2008
By Matt Williamson | Scouts Inc.

Scouts Inc. breaks down the best 20 players in the Cowboys-Steelers showdown. It shouldn't be surprising to see the two quarterbacks in the top five, and the first three should give them the most trouble.

Top 20 Players in Cowboys-Steelers Game

No. Player Team
1. ROLB James Harrison
Having Harrison at the top of this list may come as a surprise to some, but there isn't a defensive player in the league who is playing better than the Steelers' right outside linebacker. He has my vote for defensive MVP. LT Flozell Adams had better be ready.
2. ROLB DeMarcus Ware
He is one of the few defensive players who is playing on a level similar to Harrison. The Steelers' protection is very weak, and Ware can be an unstoppable force off the edge, even against high-end protectors. QB Ben Roethlisberger is going to see a lot of Ware this Sunday.
3. SS Troy Polamalu
The ultimate playmaker, he does anything that coordinator Dick LeBeau asks. You could make a strong argument for putting Polamalu first on this list.
4. QB Ben Roethlisberger
With one more victory this season, Roethlisberger will set the all-time mark for most wins by a quarterback in his first five seasons in the league. The current record holders? Cleveland's Otto Graham, Miami's Dan Marino and New England's Tom Brady. Enough said.
5. QB Tony Romo
He hasn't been as successful for as long as Roethlisberger and he must improve his play in December and beyond, but this guy makes the entire Dallas offense -- and team to some extent -- work. A great playmaker, he has a Texas-sized swagger and makes everyone around him better.
6. DE Aaron Smith
He is one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league, but the problem is that the nature of that position doesn't lend itself to glory. All you need to know about Smith is that Pittsburgh's defense absolutely crumbled at the end of last season when he suffered a torn biceps. His importance to the best defense in the league is massive.
7. WR Terrell Owens
He may have lost half a step, but T.O. remains a dangerous player. He still threatens a defense at every level and once he secures the football, he is thinking only one thing -- end zone.
8. RG Leonard Davis
Like the entire Cowboys line, Davis was better last season, but he remains an elite guard. Dallas runs behind him with tremendous success when the Cowboys need a tough yard.
9. TE Jason Witten
He has battled a rib injury for a while now but looked like his old self last week. Witten is sure-handed, threatens the seam and is about as reliable as they come. Plus, Romo trusts him more than any other receiver.
10. CB Terence Newman
Since he has returned from injury, the Cowboys' defense has vastly improved. That isn't a coincidence. Newman has the advantage one-on-one against anyone Pittsburgh matches up against him.
11. RB Marion Barber
Everyone knows that he is a brutally physical runner who inflicts punishment with every carry. However, Barber is also a very good receiving option and contributes far more to this offense than just burying would-be tacklers.
12. NT Casey Hampton
What he brings to the fold isn't flashy, but his ability to occupy the middle of the field allows the Steelers' second- and third-level playmakers to do their job with far less resistance.
13. LOLB LaMarr Woodley
This first-year starter is on track for a Pro Bowl appearance and should only get better. Harrison is exceptional on the other side, but the Cowboys would be making a major mistake if they ignored how disruptive Woodley can be coming from his left outside linebacker spot.
14. CB Ike Taylor
If he could actually catch the football, he would rank among the better cornerbacks in the game. He benefits from an elite pass rush, but there is no doubt that Taylor does his part on the Steelers' exceptional pass defense. He did a very good job against New England's Randy Moss last week and will give Owens all he can handle.
15. TE Heath Miller
He is never mentioned among the best tight ends in the league, but he is a true two-way player who makes the Steelers' running game far more effective when he is in the game. He can exploit safety and linebacker coverage alike and could be primed for a big game this week. Watch what he does play after play on game day and you will not dispute this ranking.
16. WR Hines Ward
There are more dynamic receivers in the league and better big-play options, but Ward remains a rock of consistency and has all the trust in the world from his quarterback. Plus, he will also knock defenders into next week on crackback blocks.
17. C Andre Gurode
The Cowboys' offensive line hasn't been as strong this year as last season, but Gurode is still one of the better centers in the game. He is one of the few players at his position who can effectively battle nose tackle types like Hampton. That matchup will go a long way in determining how well Barber is able to run up the middle.
18. WR Santonio Holmes
This year has been somewhat disappointing on and off the field for Holmes. Part of that can be attributed to Pittsburgh's general inability to protect long enough for Holmes to get deep, but all in all, Holmes hasn't quite lived up to the very high expectations he set for himself after last season.
19. RB Willie Parker
He makes a difference in the Steelers' rushing attack when he is in the game, but he just can't stay healthy. While he runs much harder than he's often given credit for and can break a long one at any time, Parker still doesn't offer much as a receiver or in short-yardage situations.
20. WR Roy E. Williams
It would be easy to leave Williams off this list, but I am giving him the benefit of the doubt based on his amazing physical potential and the fact that he has played only two games with Romo. Still, Dallas gave up a lot to acquire Williams and many teams in the league would love to have him line up out wide for them.

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