Pro Football Hall of Fame Game – And so it begins

Football celebrates its greats

Ben Roethlisberger

The parched, arid desert that is the football offseason thankfully comes to an end for NFL fans in the first week of August with the return of preseason action.

And that gets going Thursday, Aug. 5, on Fox, with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, which this year pits two storied franchises that have a long history as Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers face Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Not only is this contest the kickoff to the preseason, it also stands as the opening event of Hall of Fame Weekend, a four-day celebration that culminates with the Induction Ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 8. This year’s crop, as in years past, have connections to the teams on the field as two former Steelers, guard Alan Faneca and defensive back Charles Woodson, and one Cowboy, wide receiver Drew Pearson, will be entering the hallowed halls along with Pittsburgh sportswriter and scout Bill Nunn. Others to be enshrined are quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, safety John Lynch and coach Tom Flores.

The Steelers and the Cowboys are no strangers to this particular event or to each other. Both teams have played in this game six teams, each sporting 3-3 records at Canton dating back to 1963. They’ve also met 30 times in the regular season over the past 61 years, with the Cowboys winning 16 times.

But it is in the Super Bowl where these teams have a legitimate rivalry. Dallas and Pittsburgh have played each other for the league championship three times, in 1976, 1979 and 1996, with the Steelers holding a 2-1 edge. Super Bowl XIII in ’79 is considered one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played as it featured 20 players, coaches and front-office personnel (including Pearson and Nunn) that would wind up in the Hall of Fame, an NFL record. That game was won by the Steelers 35-31 at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

Certainly, Thursday’s exhibition contest doesn’t carry the importance of a Super Bowl but it is significant in that it’s the first Hall of Fame Game in two years after the 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic. And more importantly, it means the curtain has risen on the 2021 season.

And that is cause for celebration. Let the exhibition games begin.

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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