The Dallas Cowboys opened Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with heavy hearts for receiver Dez Bryant following the death of his father on Saturday.
They then added to their own burden on the opening drive when quarterback Dak Prescott was by linebacker Anthony Chickillo sacked and fumbled. Linebaker Ryan Shazier recovered.
It would prove to set the tone for the first half Sunday that saw the Cowboys chasing their own mistakes into a 15-13 deficit at halftime at Heinz Field.
The Steelers turned into opening turnover into a 38-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Ben Reothlisberger connected with running back Le’Veon Bell from 2 yards out.
After the Steelers failed on the two-point conversion, the Cowboys narrowed the score to 6-3 on a 37-yard field goal from Dan Bailey.
The Steelers made it 12-3 on the ensuing drive when they went 75 yards on 8 plays, sparked by 22-yard pass to Eli Rogers, a 17-yard pass to Jesse James and 16-yard run by Bell.
Roethlisberger hit Rogers for the 3-yard score, though Pittsburgh again failed on the two-point try.
Things began to look even worse on the first the plays of the next drive that included a false start on tackle Tyron Smith and holding on guard Zack Martin.
But on second and 18 from the 17, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott put the Cowboys back in the thick of things with an 83-yard touchdown catch.
Elliott took a screen from Prescott and weaved in and out of defenders before sprinting to the end zone to make the score 12-10.
Both sides traded field goals in what was a mistake-filled second quarter for the Cowboys that included a number of dropped passes, errant throws and penalties.
A dropped pass by receiver Cole Beasley on a third-and-3 play forced the Cowboys to settle for a 53-yard field goal from Bailey, making the score 13-12.
A roughing the passer penalty on linebacker Justin Durant helped set up a 39-yard field goal by Steelers kicker Chris Boswell.
Prescott completed 8 of 15 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but he started hitting on seven of his first 10 before cooling off late in the second quarter.
Elliott has seven carries for 34 yards to go along with the touchdown catch.
Bryant had three catches for 49 yards.
"Of course, he's very sad.," owner Jerry Jones said of Bryant before the game on 105.3 The Fan. "And you only have one of those. But he was getting the kind of support you would think. He's loved in that locker room, and by the coaches as well. And, so, there was a lot of sensitivity and love being expressed to him. I would say this. I'll say this. If he wanted to be at some place in his life, I bet it would be right in the middle of that locker room to be dealing with that."