It's only fitting that the 2021 Hall of Fame festivities will kick off at 8 p.m. with a game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers will have three former players, along with coach Bill Cowher and longtime scout Bill Nunn, enshrined in the days following the game. Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, receiver Drew Pearson and safety Cliff Harris will also have their careers immortalized in Canton, Ohio, during this week's festivities.
The two franchises have combined to win 11 Super Bowls and 16 conference titles. They are also the only franchises that have met three times in the big game. Pittsburgh came out victorious in Super Bowls X and XIII, while Dallas extracted a measure of revenge in Super Bowl XXX. The Cowboys have been stuck on five Lombardi Trophies since that game, while the Steelers are hoping to make it back to the Super Bowl this season after a 10-year absence.
While Thursday night's game is merely an exhibition, both teams are surely hoping to get their seasons off to a good start in front of a nationally televised audience. Before we preview Thursday's game, here's how to follow the action in real time.
How to watch
Notable Cowboys rookies to watch Thursday night include linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Kelvin Joseph. Parsons' play during camp has received rave reviews from coach Mike McCarthy, who is counting on the former Penn State standout to be an early contributor on the Cowboys defense. The 44th overall pick in the draft, Joseph finds himself in a position battle with veteran Anthony Brown.
The Cowboys will not dress quarterback Dak Prescott, who is dealing with a shoulder strain. Dallas' reps at quarterback will be dispersed between Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci. Gilbert -- who threw for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Cowboys' Week 9 loss to the Steelers last season -- received first-team reps during the Cowboys' last several practices.
Mason Rudolph will start for the Steelers in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who is one of several starters coach Mike Tomlin has already ruled out. The plan is for Dwayne Haskins (who has enjoyed a strong camp thus far) to finish the half and Josh Dobbs to finish Thursday night's game. Steelers fans will get their first glimpse of rookie running back Najee Harris, who is expected to play in each of Pittsburgh's four preseason games. Fellow rookie Kendrick Green, a center out of Illinois, will also start against the Cowboys.