1. The Dallas offensive line will dominate the game.
Against Green Bay the Cowboys ran the ball 43 times, and the best front five in football put on a drive-blocking clinic, wearing down the Pack with a display of sheer strength. Again and again the Dallas linemen moved the Packers five yards off the ball with all the finesse of a road grader.
In December, at the team's final weigh-in of the season, left tackle Mark Tuinei was 310 pounds, right guard Allen was 327, right tackle Erik Williams was 329, center Derek Kennard was 331, and left guard Nate Newton rounded out the heaviest line in NFL history at 334 pounds. Cowboys insiders say that Newton and Kennard have topped 350 by now, and Allen has put on 10 pounds or so. Add a few postholiday pounds to the other three, and the Dallas front five probably average 335 pounds.
Pittsburgh's defensive front seven average 267 pounds—10 pounds lighter than the Green Bay unit that spent most of the game against Dallas on its collective rear end.
"Sumo wrestling is a great illustration of what happens in line play," says Dallas offensive line coach Hudson Houck. "The guy with the bigger mass wins. And a great offensive lineman is one who beats his opponent when they're both dead tired." Against the Packers in the fourth quarter, Smith and fullback Daryl Johnston ran the ball 10 times for a combined 58 yards.
The Cowboys expect to see a lot of stunting and movement along the Steelers' defensive line, a tactic that worked for the Minnesota Vikings when they played Dallas in Week 3. The Vikings' defensive front gave the Cowboys fits before Dallas pulled out a 23-17 win in overtime. "The Vikings stunted so much, it was hard for us to get into a rhythm, and you never look very good when you can't get into a rhythm," says one Dallas coach. "You become less aggressive. And we need to be aggressive."
Green Bay tried the Vikings' approach in the NFC title game, but this time the Cowboys were ready. They neutralized the Packers' stunting with their running game and were on their way to Arizona.
2. The Cowboys are healthier than they've been in years.
Looking back on last year's NFC Championship Game at San Francisco, Dallas trainer Kevin O'Neill says, "We had so many guys hurt, we took over a hotel suite and turned it into a trainers' room. We were working around the clock, patching guys together just so they could make it onto the field for that game."
Smith was suffering from a pulled left hamstring, and he received more than 70 home remedies from fans, including something called Topozone, a skin oil that is purportedly good for everything from headaches and hemorrhoids to gout and parasitic worms. Eschewing the Topozone, Smith struggled for 74 yards before popping the other hamstring. Going into Super Bowl XXX, Smith is virtually pain-free. After 433 carries in 18 games, he just has a little tightness in his right calf.