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Identifying the X-Factors for the Steelers in Week 14 vs. the Cardinals

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

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14 in the desert. It is the Steelers’ thirtheeth game of the season, and hopefully their eighth win of the 2019 regular season.

When looking at the matchup between AFC North and NFC West 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 14 game at Arizona?

Let’s take a look...

Offensive X-Factor: Benny Snell

It was a shock to most people, including me, when Benny Snell came back from a knee injury and took the reigns as the RB1 on the team’s depth chart with James Conner out of the lineup with a shoulder injury. Each week Snell gains more confidence, and the offensive line and Randy Fichtner gain more confidence in Snell. Establishing a running game will be huge for Devlin Hodges, and that falls on the shoulder of Snell.

Defensive X-Factor: Devin Bush

Kyler Murray is one of the most elusive players in the NFL at the quarterback position, and keeping him coned into the pocket is no easy feat. The Steelers would be wise to use a spy on Murray, and I can’t think of a better play to be that spy than rookie ILB Devin Bush. Bush has the speed and athleticism to help minimize Murray’s impact on the game as a runner. However, if the Steelers deploy this defensive method with someone like Mark Barron, it could be disastrous considering Barron’s lack of top-end speed.

This week I asked Revenge of the Bird’s editor Seth Cox a series of questions leading up to the game, and I asked him who he thought the Cardinals’ ‘X-Factor’ would be. Here was his response:

On offense the X-Factor is Kyler, but that’s easy, so let’s go with Kenyan Drake and Christian Kirk.

When Drake is able to get loose, he takes a lot of pressure off of Kyler and allows the Cardinals offense to run at an efficient clip, where they are in second and third and manageable. If they are in favorable downs and distances, that allows Kliff Kingsbury to use his full repertoire of plays.

That includes Christian Kirk. Kirk has the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands, but he’s not the dominant, top receiver type. Instead, he is a weapon that is best deployed in a variety of ways that takes advantage of mismatches. If the Cardinals are running the ball, it makes Kirk and his RAC ability on play actions and RPO’s is his biggest strength. If the Cardinals aren’t running the ball well, then Kirk is usually someone that is kept in check.

On defense, Vance Joseph. He’s been awful as a defensive coordinator.

Did I mention the Cardinals defense sucks?

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!