Stars to expand the Dallas dynasty

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The Independent Online
MATT TENCH

Just about the only way in which the Dallas Cowboys are not the perfect ambassadors for their part of the world is that they represent the Lone Star State. This is plainly ridiculous. The Cowboys have enough brilliance in their midst to constitute a minor constellation.

That apart, the team from Texas are the sporting embodiment of an area where youngsters learn to strut before they can walk and modesty is regarded as a character fault. From the way Jerry Jones swaggers along the sideline as though he owns the place (he does) to Michael Irvin's exaggerated end- zone celebrations, this is a group that has enjoyed its marked dominance in the 1990s, and in many ways the only surprise about Deion Sanders is that it took the NFL's flashiest individual so long to find his natural home.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, by contrast, come from the game's blue-collar heartland and in their head coach, Bill Cowher, have one of the few of his calling who would not look out of place working in the industry which gives his team its name.

When the two teams meet in Phoenix tomorrow, it will be as a much a clash of cultures as a battle for Super Bowl XXX. Unfortunately for those seeking working-class heroes, it is not just symbolically that it will be a contest between haves and haves not.

For all their posturing, the Cowboys are by some distance the more talented of the two sides, and in particular possess an offense to compare with any ever assembled. The trio of the quarterback Troy Aikman, the running back Emmitt Smith and the wide receiver Irvin tend to dominate the headlines, but the supporting cast is hardly less impressive, with arguably the League's best full back and tight end working behind what is indisputably the League's best offensive line.

Pittsburgh's strength lies in their menacing defence and for them to have any chance, their outside linebackers Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene will have to make Aikman's acquaintance on a regular basis. Lloyd, Lawrence Taylor's natural successor, was frank about his goals this week. "Not that you go out there with the intention to hurt, but to get him out of the game," he said. The Steelers' cornerback Rod Woodson will play for the first time since suffering a serious knee injury in the opening game of the season, but the Cowboys, too, are buoyed by the return of an outstanding defensive player, Charles Haley. "How many snaps he will play I don't know. But he will play," Barry Switzer, the Dallas head coach, said of the defensive end missing for two months with back trouble.

Just about the only thing the underdogs do have going for them is history. In the 1970s, the sides met twice at the Super Bowl, with the Steelers prevailing on each occasion. But that was in the era of the Steel Curtain. Tomorrow belongs to the Golden Cowboys, who will win by at least a couple of touchdowns.

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