What to Expect in 2021 HOF Game

Nov 8, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane (41) and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) defend the last play of the game against Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Canton, Ohio is usually where the NFL season (or preseason, at least) gets underway. That changed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting a cancellation on the usual festivities.

However, there will be a big game at Tom Benson Stadium on Thursday. The annual Hall of Fame Preseason Game will be played at 8 PM Eastern as two of the most storied franchises in the NFL take to Canton to square off. It will be a rematch of Super Bowl XXX as the Dallas Cowboys do battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Both teams have an important 2021 season ahead, as the Steelers are looking to bounce back from a rough end to 2020 in which they dropped five of their last six contests, including a wild card round exit at the hands of the Cleveland Browns. For the Cowboys, they also dealt with struggles last year, but injuries played a major role in the team’s 6-10 finish, headlined by Dak Prescott dislocating and fracturing his ankle in Week 5 against the New York Giants.

Important Pieces to Note

2021 marks the first full preseason slate since the COVID pandemic, but will only feature three preseason games for each team, making room for an extra game on the regular-season schedule.

The event is part of Hall of Fame weekend, which 2021 will include an enshrinement ceremony for both inductees from this year’s and last year’s classes.

Neither Ben Roethlisberger nor Dak Prescott will see the field in this game, as Prescott is dealing with a shoulder strain, and Roethlisberger is resting. That being said, it will be a toss-up for who takes the QB2 position on both teams’ depth chart, with Dwayne Haskins competing against Mason Rudolph for the Black and Yellow.

Pittsburgh also had the worst rushing offense in the NFL, which led to the squad selecting Najee Harris out of Alabama with the 24th pick in this year’s draft. Now projected as the workhorse in the Steelers backfield, we’ll see how he handles the pressure of the national spotlight in a preseason game.

Speaking of chatter around rookies, the Cowboys’ Micah Parsons has a lot of buildup surrounding him after being the 12th pick in 2021. As his coach Mike McCarthy told NBC Sports Peter King, “He needs to play opening day. You have to trust what your eyes are telling you. And when I watch him, I see a fluid and explosive player. This game’s not too big for him. Some guys run 4.3. Some guys play 4.3. He’s the kind of guy that plays fast. He looks like he’s done this at this level before.”

Two wideouts are also getting coverage, as sophomore standouts Ceedee Lamb and Chase Claypool are coming off of solid rookie years in 2020. While the latter is setting high expectations of ten-plus touchdowns for himself, Lamb has shown more explosiveness in training camp.

With the return of the Hall of Fame Game, the NFL has started to show a return to normalcy. Perhaps this will be a step in the right direction for fans who want to see their favorite team in person instead of on TV in 2021.