The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15. It is the Steelers’ latest game after a strange sequence saw them play three games in twelve days, and hopefully this game will be their twelfth win of the 2020 regular season.
When looking at the matchup between inter-conference 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 15 game vs. Cincinnati?
Let’s take a look...
X-Factor: Ben Roethlisberger
Why: Roethlisberger could be the answer to this question every week. After all, he is the straw which stirs the Steelers’ drink, but I feel this week the onus will be on him to have the offense looking more like the unit which was averaging 30 points per game, and less like the offense who has averaged under 20 points per game the last four weeks.
Not all of the Steelers’ offensive woes have been on Roethlisberger. In fact, the drops of Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron have been extremely problematic in the success of the offense. Their drops have either put the team behind the chains, or killed drives. Some of the passes haven’t been on the mark, but Roethlisberger needs to do his part to ensure the Steelers’ offense moves the ball efficiently and puts up touchdowns when they get in the red-zone.
Lastly, Roethlisberger, who is essentially the de-facto offensive coordinator, needs to have a good plan coming out of the gates. Randy Fichtner, Matt Canada and Roethlisberger have struggled mightily to start games, and halves, and this is something which will hopefully change starting on Monday Night Football in Week 15.
X-Factor: Stephon Tuitt
Why: Following the Steelers loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 14, many Steelers’ fans asked what happened to Stephon Tuitt. Despite playing 54 snaps on defense, Tuitt did not register a single defensive statistic in the game. As the Steelers defense continues to cover for losses of personnel due to injury, it is imperative that playmakers continue performing at the same level, or above, and not regress in any manner. Hopefully for Tuitt, it was merely just one blip of a game on what has been an outstanding season.
Playing next to a Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt along with All-Pro Cameron Heyward, Tuitt needs to continue to wreak havoc along the Steelers defensive front. Tied with Bud Dupree with 8.0 sacks on the season, second only to T.J. Watt’s 12.0, Stephon Tuitt needs to have a nice “bounce back” game in order to help this defense maintain its dominant form.
Patrick Judis (Contributor, Cincy Jungle)
X-Factor: Ryan Finley
Why: I’m tempted to say Bates because he probably needs to create a few turnovers to even have a shot at having the Bengals compete on Monday night.
However, it really does come down to an offense that hasn’t scored more than 10 points in any of the past three games doing what it is supposed to do by getting in the end zone and not just running the clock. With Ryan Finley starting, he needs to step up.
Whoever is out there, which will be Finley, needs to not only make the plays to keep this offense moving, but to finish drives off with touchdowns. They need to break this streak of not having games with multiple offensive touchdowns that dates back to the last time these two teams met.
Who would be your X-Factor for the Week 15 game in Cincinnati? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!