Who are these guys? Robert Golden was on special teams, Josh Victorian was on the practice squad. Curtis Brown was on the bench. But with the top three cornerbacks injured and out, they made up the Steelers’ secondary for much of the second half Sunday in Dallas.
“We’re out there with guys who have got to get adjusted and on the road, and that’s tough,” said Keenan Lewis, who was pulled with a groin injury. “We couldn’t run some of the plays we want to run. Trying to adjust, that’s tough. For any team, that’s tough.”
Even with backups to backups on the field, the Steelers limited Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to 8 of 15 completions in the fourth quarter.
• Troy Polamalu’s injured calf still needs treatment before, after and sometimes during games, yet he made seven tackles in Dallas. He’s not exactly limping to the finish line, but it’s obvious he’s playing through discomfort. Asked about all of the backups in the secondary, he said, “I’m thankful to be out there myself.”
• With one more loss, the Steelers would have as many defeats as they had the previous two seasons combined; they went 12-4 in 2010 and 2011. They’re also extending a cycle in which their worst seasons occur every three years: 6-10 in 2003, 8-8 in 2006, 9-7 in 2009 and 7-7 in 2012. They missed the playoffs in ’03, ’06 and ’09. “You are what the record says you are, .500,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “Thankfully, we still have an opportunity to get into the dance.”
• For the sixth time this season, the Steelers failed to gain 70 yards rushing. They were held to 69 yards, with 22 coming on a single run by Isaac Redman. They have had only one 100-yard game as a team — 134 yards against Baltimore on Nov. 18 — in their past six games.
• Right guard David DeCastro, making his NFL starting debut, and right tackle Kelvin Beachum were praised for holding up well in the first game they played alongside each other. “That’s what’s disappointing to me, to let guys down that played so well,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
• Running back Rashard Mendenhall, suspended last week by coach Mike Tomlin for not attending the Dec. 9 home game against San Diego, was reinstated Monday. The Steelers must make room for Mendenhall on their 53-man roster by 4 p.m. Tuesday. Mendenhall, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, has not had a carry since losing the second of his two fumbles in a span of four carries Nov. 25 in Cleveland.
• The Steelers and Cowboys, despite their 7-6 records coming in, continue to be big TV draws. The final half hour of their nationally televised game attracted nearly 40 percent of all viewers in major markets. The game was the most-watched on CBS this season.
• Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (cracked rib) is the latest added to the injury list. He hasn’t ruled out playing Sunday, although Tomlin could update his status Tuesday. “Those things heal fast, so hopefully I’ll be back next week,” Sanders said.