The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Buffalo Bills in Week 14. It is the Steelers’ latest road game after their first loss in Week 13, and hopefully their twelfth win of the 2020 regular season.
When looking at the matchup between 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 14 game vs. Buffalo?
Let’s take a look...
X-Factor: Diontae Johnson
Why: The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has become predictable, but that doesn’t mean it is easily stoppable. After the Steelers’ narrow victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12, I said if the Steelers don’t stop themselves, very few will be able to stop them.
Even after the team’s first loss of the season, I still believe this statement to be true.
If the Steelers, mainly Diontae Johnson, can make the routine plays, it is a night-and-day difference between what the team has put on display the past three weeks.
There was a time when I thought the Steelers’ passing attack was a pick-your-poison type of offense, but it has become increasingly clear Ben Roethlisberger wants a No. 1 target he can trust in almost any situation. Like it or not, that player is Diontae Johnson. If the Steelers’ offense is going to be worthy of a lengthy playoff push, they need players like Johnson to step up their game and prove their worth.
That venture begins on Sunday night in Buffalo against the Bills.
X-Factor: Steven Nelson
Why: Last week the Steelers did a decent job filling in for the loss of Nelson who missed the game with a knee injury. The Steelers basically held Washington scoreless in the first half since the field goal they kicked should have never occurred. The second half was slightly different and really became more of a problem after the injury losses of Robert Spillane and Joe Haden.
Having to cover for both starting corners being out, the Steelers secondary, as well as the play calling, was shaky. With Joe Haden missing Sunday night’s game with a concussion, Steven Nelson will return to the lineup in an even more important role. If Nelson can be the player Haden was last week prior to being injured, then the Steelers secondary may be up to the task against Buffalo’s much more prolific passing offense.
It will ultimately be up to Nelson to handle his responsibilities without having to give other consideration. If Nelson’s knee can hold up and he slides right back in to being a top-tier cornerback, the Steelers defense will be much more likely to get the job done.
Who would be your X-Factor for the Week 14 game in Buffalo? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!