NFL News & Analysis

2021 Hall of Fame Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Dallas Cowboys 3

Aug 5, 2021; Canton, Ohio, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Israel Mukuamu (38) knocks the ball away from Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Zach Gentry (81) during the first half at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Surprising no one, neither team in the 2021 Hall of Fame Game was all that special on Thursday night. The Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately made fewer mistakes in an overall ugly affair, beating the Dallas Cowboys, 16-3.

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KEY STORYLINES

Mapletron! — Steelers second-year receiver Chase Claypool made two out-routes look easy early on and capped off his night with a stellar 45-yard reception after beating Cowboys rookie cornerback Nashon Wright on a vertical down the left sideline. Claypool stayed down on the field after the catch but managed to walk off the field. The lone mistake for Claypool on the night was a drop on a post-route early in the game.

Hello, Garrett Gilbert — While the nation banged the table for the famed Ben DiNucci, Cowboys veteran signal-caller Garrett Gilbert put on a show as the team’s starter for the contest. The eight-year veteran quarterback completed 9-of-13 pass attempts for 104 yards on the night, including a 20-yard dart to fourth-year wideout Malik Turner that was ultimately fumbled away and recovered by second-year safety Antoine Brooks Jr. 

Underwhelming Harris Debut — Steelers’ first-round rookie Najee Harris averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on his seven rushes. He also forced zero missed tackles on the night behind what was a notably disappointing offensive line performance. A whopping 18 of his 22 rushing yards came after contact.

Yikes, Ben DiNucci — No amount of sidearm throws could lift Cowboys’ third-stringer Ben DiNucci out of his early first-half slump. He completed just 4-of-11 passes for 47 yards and threw an awful pick to Donovan Stiner, an undrafted rookie safety out of the University of Florida, before the fourth-quarter two-minute drill. He padded the stats late with a few easy completions and a cheeky 27-yard scamper but still finished with just 89 passing yards on 16 total attempts.

Hot Start for Alex Highsmith — Second-year edge defender Alex Highsmith totaled three pressures on fewer than 20 pass-rush snaps against Dallas, including a Gilbert sack that capped off a well-executed spin against veteran tackle Ty Nsekehe. Highsmith will be given an opportunity to start for Pittsburgh’s defense with veteran Bud Dupree signing with the Tennessee Titans in free agency.

Efficient Night for Josh Dobbs — Five-year veteran quarterback Josh Dobbs didn’t get any reps until the second half but made the most of his limited opportunities. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 47 yards and an impressive five-yard touchdown pass while under pressure to second-year Georgia product Tyler Simmons.

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