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 8 game vs. Baltimore?
Let’s take a look...
X-Factor: Chase Claypool
Why: The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is versatile, and dynamic, and one of the reasons it has developed into such a unit is the depth they have at the wide receiver position. If the Ravens decide to put Marlon Humphrey, their best cornerback, on JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Marcus Peters on Diontae Johnson, it leaves a winnable matchup at the WR3 position.
Jimmy Smith would usually take that third option, but Smith’s availability for the game is in doubt. Let’s just assume Peters and Humphrey are able to neutralize their opposition. This means a player like Chase Claypool could, and should, be able to dominate with Randy Fichtner, and Ben Roethlisberger, putting Claypool in a position to succeed.
In case you forgot what he is capable of...
There is no doubt the Steelers’ have tremendous depth at wide receiver, and anyone is capable of being ‘the guy’ every time the Steelers offense takes the field. Could it be someone like James Washington?
It absolutely could, but I will put my money on Claypool. His stat line might not be mind-blowing, but I see him being a difference maker in the game in a big way. Hence why he is my X-Factor for this huge divisional game.
X-Factor: Cam Heyward
Why: The Steelers defensive captain is anchoring the best interior defensive line in the NFL by far. Yet, by the 2019 standards, Heyward has yet to completely take over a game as he had did in last year‘s All-Pro campaign. As the Steelers defense looks to slow down the Ravens’ NFL leading rushing attack, the guys in the trenches will need to control the line of scrimmage. With Heyward as their leader, stopping the run would go a long way for Steelers victory.
In 2019, Heyward had a sack in each matchup against Baltimore. If he could keep up the trend and get to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson again on Sunday, the Steelers defense could be setting up Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to not need a large point total in order to secure a victory.
Perhaps we can see more of this on Sunday...
Every Cam Heyward sack from the 2019 season pic.twitter.com/Jhdd8l1g13— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) May 15, 2020
Cam Heyward still is a monster this year. Bull rushes and manhandles an elite Center in Jason Kelce right back into Carson Wentz. Motor stays hot an he pursues Wentz for the sack. pic.twitter.com/IVOXW5SgUr— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 12, 2020
Who would be your X-Factor for the Week 8 game at M&T Bank Stadium? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!