The Cowboys have four defensive starters on injured reserve, and nickel back Orlando Scandrick also has joined inside linebacker Bruce Carter, inside linebacker Sean Lee, safety Barry Church, defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman on the season-ending injury list. On Sunday, Dallas also played without starting cornerback Morris Claiborne and nose tackle Jay Ratliff.
Yet, despite being without six starters and a key reserve, the Cowboys held the Steelers to 24 points. Pittsburgh had 388 total yards.
"It’s easy to write us off as a defense, because we’ve got six guys back there that we barely know," Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher said Monday during a team charity visit to the Texas Scottish Rite for Children. "It just goes to show you what kind of coaching staff we have to go out and get the right type of people to come in at this particular time. This is a tough spot in the season. You’ve got to have guys that have been there. Two of the guys on our team have Super Bowl rings, so I hope they’re bringing luck to us."
Linebacker Brady Poppinga, who played on the Packers' Super Bowl XLV championship team, was signed Nov. 26. He started Sunday. Nose tackle Brian Schaefering and cornerback Michael Coe, both of whom joined the team last week, each played 10 defensive plays. Safety Eric Frampton, who the Cowboys signed Sept. 25 for his special teams ability, played 29 of 60 plays.
The Cowboys are tied for 14th in total defense.
-- Charean Williams