The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for possibly their toughest game of the 2019 season when playing the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium. It just so happens this game is going to be played on Sunday Night Football in Week 1 of the 2019 regular season.
This is no tune-up game, but both teams will be thrust into the fire to see what they are made of early in the regular season. When looking at the matchup between these 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 1 game vs. New England?
Let’s take a look...
Defensive X-Factor: T.J. Watt
I found myself completely stunned this week when I realized of all the players being discussed leading up to this game, no one was talking about Watt. Devin Bush, Mark Barron, and even Joe Haden were dominating the headlines, but I expect T.J. Watt to dominate on the field.
Watt had a field day against the Patriots last year, and I would expect him to have another tremendous game. I have a hunch Watt ends up with a football in some way, shape or form on Sunday night.
Offensive X-Factor: James Conner
It is easy to suggest Ben Roethlisbeger would be the ‘X-Factor’ every week, but if there is a week it is someone else, it would be Week 1. The Steelers will need to stay as balanced as possible on Sunday Night Football, and if the team doesn’t run the ball well early you can expect the play calling to become very pass-happy.
If Conner is able to get going, the Steelers can control the clock and keep Tom Brady on the sideline.
This week I asked Pats Pulpit editor Bernd Buchmasser a series of questions leading up to the game, and I asked him who he thought the Patriots’ ‘X-Factor’ would be. Here was his response:
The Patriots will start Ted Karras at center in place of David Andrews, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve after blood clots were discovered in his lungs. However, he is not the only new offensive lineman in the lineup: left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who was drafted in the first round last year but missed all of 2018 due to a torn Achilles tendon, will make his debut as Tom Brady’s blindside protector. It will be trial by fire, if you will, considering that the Steelers have a terrific edge rush. This in combination with Karras’ inexperience — he has started only five games over the course of his three-year career — will make for an interesting battle up front: if the Patriots can’t establish a presence in the trenches offensively, it will be a long day for them.
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 prime time game!