There are certain types of football bettors who get down on the NFL preseason: sharps, the informed, and football-starved action junkies.
Those folks get their first taste of exhibition pigskin in two years with the NFL Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The chaos and unpredictability of the preseason levels the playing field between books and bettors, and is a rare time in which coaches will openly tell you what they’re going to do and who’s going to it. You just have to listen.
Here are our free NFL betting picks and predictions for Cowboys vs. Steelers in the 2021 Hall of Fame Game.
Cowboys vs Steelers game info
• Location: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, OH
• Date: Thursday, August 5, 2021
• Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
• TV: FOX
Cowboys vs Steelers odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
Compare NFL odds before betting to ensure you get the best number.
Check out the full line movement for this game
Dallas Cowboys at Pittsburgh Steelers betting preview
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our NFL weather info.
Cowboys: Dak Prescott QB (Out), Mitch Hyatt OT (Out).
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger QB (Out), Demarcus Christmas DT (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Steelers are 9-2-1 ATS in their last 12 preseason games (2017 to 2019). Find more NFL betting trends for Cowboys vs. Steelers.
Against the spread (ATS) pick
Step No. 1 in betting preseason football is to know who the quarterbacks are, and not just the QB1s. You’ve got to look way down the depth chart to see which randoms will be under center in the fourth quarter.
As with most Hall of Fame Games, don’t expect to see many – if any – first-stringers. You sure as hell aren’t going to see Dak Prescott or Ben Roethlisberger out there on Thursday.
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin has said he’s starting with Mason Rudolph and will play Dwayne Haskins at least a few minutes to end the first half. That leaves mop-up duty to Josh Dobbs in the final 30 minutes. Rudolph is by far the best QB on the field, with nine regular season starts under his belt in just two years.
The Cowboys need to take a long look at their backups, given Prescott’s tender ankle entering 2021. McCarthy hasn’t announced his QB rotation for Thursday as of this writing but if reps and buzz out of camp are any indications, Garrett Gilbert - who showed flashes of brilliance in a lone November start versus the Steelers (funnily enough) last season - could be the starter. Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci are also duking it out for second-team reps at camp and will likely see plenty of snaps in the first and second half versus Pittsburgh.
The X-factor for this matchup – at least in the first half - could be Steelers’ rookie RB Najee Harris, who is expected to play Thursday as well as in Pittsburgh’s other three preseason tilts. The Alabama product was the 24th pick in the draft and does damage on the ground and through the air. He and third-stringer Anthony McFarland Jr., who has impressed in camp, have an opportunity for plenty of touches with fellow RB Benny Snell Jr. nursing an injury.
While Tomlin is encouraging exhibition work for some of his youngsters and backups, McCarthy is playing it cool after training camp was littered with injuries. The former Green Bay head coach was 27-25 SU and 27-22-3 ATS in preseason games with the Packers (2006 to 2018) while Tomlin owns a 31-23 SU record and 25-27-2 ATS count in tune-up tilts since taking over the reins in Pittsburgh back in 2007.
PREDICTION: Steelers -1.5 (-110)
The total for the Hall of Fame Game opened at 34 and has dropped to 33 points, given six of the eight HoF Games since 2010 (three were canceled) have played Under the number. Like way Under.
Participating teams have combined to score an average of just 23.25 points in those games versus an average closing total of 35.06, leaving lots of headroom for those taking the Under.
While preseason trends are about as reliable as your drunken buddy’s promise to drive you to the airport in the morning, there is something said for the quality of offense versus defense in these early exhibitions.
Successful scoring attacks need timing and chemistry – something that’s not there in August and definitely not easy to come by when coaches are constantly plugging in second, third and fourth-string players. Defense is a much more instinctual part of the game, reading and reacting.
The point production can take a tumble in the second half of the Hall of Fame Game, when teams reach down into the Midnight Zone of the depth chart. An average of 12.5 points per second half has been scored since 2010, including 10 or fewer second-half points in four of those contests.
There could be some flash in the first half, with Rudolph and Haskins slinging it and Dallas going pass-heavy to get a good look at their QB2 options, but expect an unwatchable second half of Hall of Fame Game football.
PREDICTION: Under 33 (-110)
Cowboys vs Steelers betting card
- Steelers -1.5 (-110)
- Under 33 (-110)
Picks made on 8/4/2021 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Did you know that if you parlayed this week’s NFL Cowboys vs. Steelers picks, you could win $26.45 on a $10 bet?
Use our NFL parlay calculator to create your own parlays and see their potential payouts.