Things don't often go well for the Dallas Cowboys when Tyron Smith is sidelined with injury. Such was the case in Week 9, when they were obliterated by the Denver Broncos and swing tackle Terence Steele -- who was mostly playing well at the right edge in the absence of La'el Collins -- played his worst game of the season when moved to the left side of the offensive line. Steele improved his play in Week 10, with help from running back Ezekiel Elliott and Cowboys tight ends, helping Dak Prescott stay clean enough to hang 43 points on the Atlanta Falcons, but make no mistake about it: there's only one Tyron Smith.
And with the Kansas City Chiefs up next, having Smith on the field would go a long way to helping the Cowboys try and steal a win at Arrowhead Stadium, on Sunday. Smith missed the last two starts with what the Cowboys describe as a bone spur in his ankle but a sources describes it to CBS Sports as more akin to a mild high ankle sprain that was re-aggravated a couple weeks back, when he was forced out of the Week 8 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
When asked about Smith's chances to take the field in Week 11, team exec Stephen Jones told 105.3FM the Fan on Monday that Smith has "a real shot" at doing so, and that Dallas is adding Smith "to the list of guys who will be able to step up and play" against the Chiefs. It's a sentiment echoed by owner Jerry Jones, but with an asterisk, and one that's fairly obvious.
Smith first needs to return to practice this week and then ramp up in a fashion that would dispel any concerns the Cowboys might have about his ankle. They've often taken the approach this season of not rushing players back to protect against damaging the long game -- i.e., the 17-game season and potential playoff berth -- for the sake of trying to win a momentary battle. It's worked out well for them to this point, mostly, as they clutch a 7-2 record that has them only 0.5 game back of the No. 1 seat in the NFC, currently owned by the Green Bay Packers.
If Smith is forced to rest one additional week, Steele would remain at left tackle as Collins is truly regaining his groove in his old post at the right edge. If he returns, a separate source notes the plan would be for Collins to retain his starting role at RT while Steele remains swing tackle, noting how well Collins has played the last two weeks, and that pulling Collins to reset Steele at RT isn't impossible (because nothing is) but would be a "wildly unexpected" move by Dallas.
All will be known and sorted out by week's end, but the fact the Cowboys are optimistic about Smith bodes well for his potential availability against one of their biggest tests to date, as they ready to march into one of the more hostile environments in all of football -- against a defense that is drooling at a shot to put hands on Prescott.