It seems like the Hall of Fame Game has been skipped more times than it’s been played over the last few years. The game and the entire NFL preseason slate was shuttered last year due to the pandemic, but the festivities are back to kick off the 2021 NFL season with a matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Both teams are looking to regroup after disappointing finishes to last season and the Cowboys need a few exhibition games to work out the kinks under second-year coach Mike McCarthy.
The 2021 Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers will take place at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 5, and will be televised on FOX.
Cowboys vs Steelers Odds
Spread: Cowboys +1 | Steelers -1 [BET NOW]
Money Line: Cowboys +103 | Steelers -123 [BET NOW]
Over/Under: 33 [BET NOW]
(Odds provided by BookMaker.eu as of 12:19 pm ET)
The Steelers were one of the best bets in the NFL last season. They won their first 11 games going 8-3 ATS and despite losing four of their final five games they paid out 10 times. Preseason games are tough to get a handle on and spreads are typically low which is why this matchup has Pittsburgh as a 1-point favorite on the opening line.
This isn’t your typical preseason, though. For one it’s the first exhibition game since before the start of the 2019 season and we could see coaches implement a different strategy since teams play one fewer exhibition contest. Under Mike Tomlin the Steelers have been good in preseason games posting a record of 31-23.
Without the benefit of a preseason last year the Cowboys struggled in McCarthy’s first year. They finished the season 6-10 SU and 5-11 ATS. In a sense they are starting over with Dak Prescott back after missing a majority of last season with an injury. He’s unlikely to play in this game, however.
A horrific ankle injury in Week 5 cost Prescott the remainder of the season and the backup plan with veteran Andy Dalton didn’t work out. Prescott is back but a minor ailment in camp limited his throwing and he won’t play on Thursday. Even if he was healthy he probably wouldn’t have taken any snaps. The Cowboys thought they had the insurance policy in Dalton last year and now they’re handing the backup job to Garrett Gilbert. He doesn’t have a lot of experience with just seven games under his NFL belt, but he’s done enough to distance himself from Ben DiNucci and Cooper Rush.
Gilbert will take a bulk of the reps since he’s only thrown 44 passes in his NFL career. All but six of those attempts came in his lone start last season just a few weeks after signing with the team. And ironically it was against the Steelers, who emerged with a 24-19 victory.
While the offense had its problems last year after Prescott went down, the defense was a mess the entire year. With significant changes on that side of the football you can expect the Boys to be all over the field. They gave up more than 30 points in half their games and ranked near the bottom in just about every major statistical category. Dan Quinn is the new coordinator and the Boys used their first six picks in the draft on defenders. I think it’s safe to say they’ll be looking to lay the ground work early.
It’s not how you start rather it’s how you finish. And the close to last season no doubt left a bad taste in the mouths of the Steelers. Losing four of their last five games and getting ambushed by Cleveland in the Wild Card round overshadowed the fact that they opened with 11 consecutive victories. And with Ben Roethlisberger entering the twilight of his career the Steelers need to have a succession plan in place. Right now the plan is to have Mason Rudolph as the backup, a role he’s familiar with.
Rudolph hasn’t done anything to lose the job, but he also hasn’t done much to improve his status as No. 2. With not much tread left on Ben’s tires we won’t see him on Thursday giving Rudolph a chance to gain separation over Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs.
While most of the players from the AFC North title team are back one area that needs work is the offensive line. Four starters from last year’s group are gone and working in new bodies is a top priority. That could lead to a long night for quarterbacks since defenses always have the edge at this stage in the preseason.
Cowboys vs Steelers Prediction
Our picks: Dallas Cowboys +1 and UNDER 33
Typically we don’t see a lot of points scored in the HOF game. Six of the last eight confrontations finished at or below the opening total of 33 and with top offensive players from both sides sitting out it’s going to be difficult to score points. And this is a big year for McCarthy who has already been labeled as on the hot seat. I expect the Boys to be a little more motivated to get the win.
Check out the latest NFL Hall of Fame Game odds.