The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 at Levi Stadium. It is the home opener for the 49ers, and hopefully the first of many wins for the Steelers during the 2019 regular season.
When looking at the matchup between AFC and NFC, 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 1 game vs. New England?
Let’s take a look...
Defensive X-Factor: Defensive End, Cameron Heyward
Through two games Cameron Heyward has been pretty much extinct. The Steelers’ defensive captain has been getting more attention along the defensive line, but is a player who usually is able to make plays regardless of how many players the opposition sends to stop him. If the Steelers want to win on the road in Week 3, they will need Heyward to dominate both in the run game, and as a pass rusher.
Offensive X-Factor: Quarterback, Mason Rudolph
This might seem obvious, but it is the truth. Mason Rudolph is going to have to play a great game for the Steelers to win the game. You can talk about James Conner, Vance McDonald or JuJu Smith-Schuster, but the success of this team will be predicated on Rudolph finding the open receiver when the opportunity presents itself. If Rudolph plays well, and doesn’t turn the ball over, the Steelers should have a chance at upsetting the home 49ers.
This week I asked Niners Nation editor Kyle Posey a series of questions leading up to the game, and I asked him who he thought the 49ers’ ‘X-Factor’ would be. Here was his response:
Matt Breida will be the X-factor, and ultimately the difference-maker in this game. Seattle had five runs go over ten yards against the Steelers. What I can see is the 49ers trying to get to the edge and force the Steelers to make tackles in the open field, an area where Breida excels. I saw a few missed tackles from the Steelers last week. That’s the downfall to blitzing and playing man coverage. If you miss a tackle, there’s a lot of room to run for the ball-carrier. If Shanahan catches the Steelers on a blitz and gets Breida in space, lookout.
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!