After further review: who played well and who struggled in the Cowboys preseason loss to the Steelers?

Dan Rogers

The Dallas Cowboys completed their first preseason game of the new season in a 16-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame game. With many of our favorites on the shelf, the excitement was minimal; however, that doesn't mean we can't evaluate what we saw. And that is what I did as I present to you a handful of key observations from Thursday night's contest.

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"Real Deal" Terence Steele@chase_shannon / Twitter

Terence Steele might be the real deal

Considering how much depth this team has along the offensive line, I was expecting to see this group perform a lot better than they did. It was nice to see La'el Collins in there and take some reps as he played in the team's first offensive series. He looked okay; nothing fantastic, nothing bad.

Outside of that, there wasn't all that much going on, but one player who impressed a bit was second-year UDFA Terence Steele. Thrown into action last year, the young tackle had his ups and downs. All things considered, he performed admirably when the team was in a pinch. Entering the new season, many thought the team's return of health would push Steele down the depth chart, even possibly making him a roster cut next month. But based on what we've so far in camp and on Thursday night, Steele doesn't appear to be be going anywhere.

He's moved ahead of another UDFA Brandon Knight, who like Steele, was called upon out of need. Knight has been so-so as well the previous two seasons, but he didn't move well against the Steelers. Far too many times, he tried to fend off rushers by just using his upper body. That's not a good recipe for success.

The team signed veteran Ty Nsekhe to be their new swing tackle, but I'm not totally convinced the job doesn't go to Steele by seasons end. The growth of Steele is trending in the right direction whereas Nsekhe looked stiff out there.

Long arms come in handy

It was nice to get a look at the Cowboys young cornerback as we try to figure out which of these players might step up and help the defense this season. Second-round pick Kelvin Joseph seemed to play off a bit and we didn't get to see him make any plays. Third-round pick Nahshon Wright was challenged regularly and he was okay. He allowed too much separation at times, but also did a good job staying physical. He does like to used his hands while staying with his man down the sideline, so that could be a little concerning.

We did get to see a few players use their length to make plays. Veteran Maurice Canady showed a lot of hustle against the Steelers.

Reggie Robinson demonstrated nice recovery skill by using that long wingspan to make plays.

And speaking of long wingspan, the rookie sixth-round draft pick Israel Mukuamu used his length to break up this pass.

C'est la vie, D'Nooch

With no Dak Prescott available, we got a nice dose of action from backup Garrett Gilbert. He looked good at times, and a little off at others. Nothing that we saw on Thursday should make us feel any better or worse about calling upon Gilbert should the need arise.

As for the other backups, Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci? Well, that's a different story. Typically, I have lumped them together in the "guys I hope we never have to see in action" category. Now, it seems evident that one is clearly better than the other.

Neither is making this football team, but Rush is the only one I'd consider signing to the roster squad. DiNucci is just bad at football.

Special teams looked anything but special

The Cowboys brought in John Fassel to help improve their special teams unit last year, and while there were some questionable plays, the improvement was there. The team is hoping to continue to get better in that department this upcoming season. If Thursday game against the Steelers was any indication, they are not off to a very good start. The team has missed assignments, were caught standing around, and misplayed the bounce of the ball in what resulted in a collection of negative plays in this game.

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