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Who is the Steelers’ X-Factor in Week 16 vs. the Colts?

Who is the X-Factor for the Steelers in their Week 16 game vs. Indianapolis?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16. It is the Steelers’ latest game after a three game losing streak and hopefully this game will be their twelfth win of the 2020 regular season.

When looking at the matchup between 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 16 game vs. Indianapolis?

Let’s take a look...

Jeff Hartman

X-Factor: Ben Roethlisberger

Why: Last week I wrote this when I used Roethlisberger as my X-Factor for the Week 15 game vs. the Bengals on Monday Night Football:

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.

Last week was absolutely dreadful in every way possible. The plan coming out of the gate was awful, Roethlisberger’s accuracy was atrocious and the Steelers suffered one of the most embarrassing losses of recent memory on a national stage.

If the Steelers have a prayer in Week 16, to win the AFC North and actually be competitive in a playoff game, Roethlisberger better pull his head out of his you-know-where. Pure and simple.

Dave Schofield

X-Factor: Cam Heyward

Why: This pick was obvious a couple of days ago, and now seems to be important for a little different reasons. In 2019, Heyward owned All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson all day. At one point, Heyward drove Nelson back into his own quarterback Jacoby Brissett and knocked him out for the game. With Nelson being the gold standard of offensive line play in the NFL, if Heyward can dominate yet again it will be tough for the Colts offense to get going.

In the last two days, this matchup will now take on an even new level. With both starting tackles out for the Colts, most likely Indy will have to hope Nelson can get the job done without any help as the tackle next to him may very well have his hands full. With this new development, it is now even more likely Heyward will get a one-on-one matchup. Even against the best the NFL has to offer, I’ll put my money on Cam Heyward if he only has one guy he’ll be taking on most of the day.