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Identifying the X-Factors for the Steelers in Week 8 vs. the Dolphins

There are several players for the Steelers who could be viewed as ‘X-Factors’ leading up to the game.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Miami Dolphins in Week 8 at Heinz Field. It is the Steelers’ fourth home game of the season, and hopefully their third win of the 2019 regular season.

When looking at the matchup between AFC foes, there are players who can be viewed as ‘X-Factors’.

What is an ‘X-Factor’?

I would describe an ‘X-Factor’ as a player who can truly alter the outcome of the game, single-handedly. Not just a plug and play type player, but a player who always has to be accounted for, no matter what.

As a clear-cut example of what an ‘X-Factor’ player would look like, think Troy Polamalu. Polamalu’s skill set made him a force to be reckoned with on every play. So, who are the ‘X-Factors’ for the Steelers Week 8 game vs. Miami?

Let’s take a look...

Offensive X-Factor: Mason Rudolph

Rudolph hasn’t played since his 3rd quarter exit in Week 5’s overtime loss to the Ravens at Heinz Field, and everyone wants to finally see offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner open up the playbook for the former Oklahoma State product. In college Rudolph was known for his down field throwing, and fans are sick of seeing the dink-and-dunk offense. It is time to let Mason loose and run the offense to the best of his ability.

Defensive X-Factor: Minkah Fitzpatrick

Going up against his old team certainly will have the adrenaline pumping, but what has me more excited than anything is how Fitzpatrick will have almost two weeks of prep under his belt in the Steelers’ system. This comfort within the system should allow him to move freely throughout the defense and be the true play maker everyone wants to see take over in the deep secondary.

This week I asked The Phinsider’s editor Kevin Nogle a series of questions leading up to the game, and I asked him who he thought the Dolphins’ ‘X-Factor’ would be. Here was his response:

Xavien Howard, if he is healthy, is the defensive x-factor for Miami this year. He can absolutely shut down a top-tier wide receiver if he is on his game and fully healthy, but he has also had times where he has looked slow or that he is not fully engaged in the game. Hopefully that was a one-time thing, but with the injury that has been holding him out, it is hard to know exactly what he will be.

If Howard is not available, the defense needs to rely on Taco Charlton to create pressure and on Raekwon McMillan to stop the run. If they can both do that, maybe the Dolphins defense can find some success.

Over on offense, we will go with Preston Williams. The undrafted free agent wide receiver is becoming a weapon. He still has rookie issues, and he drops passes way more than you want, but he has shown flashes that he could be a “number one” receiver with continued development. His performance so far this year, along with DeVante Parker showing up and looking good, has some thought that Miami could have the core of their receiving corps already in place.

And, of course, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Do the Dolphins have FitzMagic or FitzTragic on Monday?

Who would be your ‘X-Factor’ for the game? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the upcoming game!