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Identifying the X-Factors for the Steelers in Week 11 vs. the Browns

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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 Cleveland Browns in Week 11 on Thursday Night Football. It is the first time the Steelers’ have been on the road the past three weeks, and they are trying to win their fifth straight game, and sixth overall in the 2019 regular season.

When looking at the matchup between AFC North rivals, 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 11 game vs. Cleveland?

Let’s take a look...

Offensive X-Factor: James Conner

The Steelers have been without Conner the past two weeks, and it has been noticeable. Jaylen Samuels is a tremendous mult-purpose back, but running in between the tackles isn’t his forte. If the Steelers want to win this game on a short week, leaning on the running game, and hopefully a fully healed Conner, will be paramount for the black-and-gold. Time consuming drives that end in touchdowns, not field goals, will be the name of the game for the Steelers, and this game has the making of a “grind it out” kind of game. Conner will need to step up and duplicate his Week 8 performance vs. the Dolphins in Week 11.

Defensive X-Factor: Cameron Heyward

The Cleveland offense has one way to win this game, and that is by running the football. Doing so will allow them to win time of possession, keep the clock moving, control the tempo, and, most importantly, not force the game into Baker Mayfield’s hands. With that said, this is a game the team’s defensive captain, Cameron Heyward, has to step up and show no team, especially the Browns, will run on the Steelers. Bottling up Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt won’t be easy, but Heyward has been known to wreck opposing team’s plans on occasion. Time for him to do it again.

This week I asked Dawgs By Nature editor Chris Pokorny a series of questions leading up to the game, and I asked him who he thought the Browns’ ‘X-Factor’ would be. Here was his response:

The X-Factor for the game has to be Kareem Hunt. As I mentioned earlier, the two-back package deployed against the Bills showed a lot of potential, and Hunt’s versatility was on display. I didn’t realize how willing of a blocker he was, as he led-block as a fullback a few times for Nick Chubb. Hunt also had 7 catches for 44 yards to go along with 4 carries for 30 yards, and that was just in his first game in over a year. The big key that I see here is utilizing Hunt on a short week of rest. Although his endurance might not be in tip-top shape yet, he basically has fresh legs, which can be a huge asset against a defense that is playing on a short week after half a season of wear-and-tear on their body.

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!