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Identifying the X-Factors for the Steelers in Week 13 vs. the Browns

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

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Cleveland Browns in Week 13 at Heinz Field. It is the first time the Steelers’ have been back home after the past two weeks, and they are trying to win their seventh game 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: Devlin Hodges

Mason Rudolph threw 4 interceptions in the Week 11 loss in Cleveland, but it won’t be Rudolph under center in Week 13. No, it will be Devlin Hodges. Hodges might be just the perfect mix of big play ability, and intelligence, to get the job done, but he’ll need help. Pittsburgh will be banking on some play making ability, and, as Mike Tomlin said, not “killing us” with crucial turnovers.

Defensive X-Factor: Mark Barron

The decision to put Barron on the X-Factor list is simple: Since the Steelers are deteremined to play Barron an excessive amount, it will be imperative Barron plays a great game. BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict outlined in a two-part film room series how well Barron played vs. the Bengals, and the Steelers will need him to repeat that performance in run support and coverage if the defense hopes to stop Baker Mayfield and company.

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 (Editor’s Note: Chris’ response was given before Robinson was officially ruled out for the game Sunday):

Browns left tackle Greg Robinson came down with concussion symptoms on Wednesday, which came out of no where. Cleveland’s offensive line has stabilized very well over the past three games, so losing the left tackle against a good pass-rushing team makes for some nerves, especially when there was word that the Browns were hoping (prior to the concussion news) to utilize six linemen at times this week to prepare for that rush. Justin McCray will probably get the start -- he started one game against New England this year and did OK, but you still hate losing that continuity.

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!