The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Washington Football Team in Week 13. It is the Steelers’ latest home game after a strange Wednesday home game in Week 12, and hopefully their eleventh 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 13 game vs. Washington?
Let’s take a look...
X-Factor: Chase Claypool
Why: The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie has taken the NFL by storm, although not being recognized like many other rookies in 2020, but the Steelers are going to really need Claypool to grow and develop down the stretch to be a transformative player.
At this point, Claypool has been a boom-or-bust type player. Meaning, Claypool either delivers a big play in some fashion, but sometimes struggles with the routine play. Whether it is a defensive pass interference call, or a big catch along the sideline, if Claypool can become a more consistent player he could make the Steelers’ receiving corps almost impossible to defend.
This isn’t to suggest Claypool is struggling, his body of work speaks for itself, but the Steelers need Claypool to take the next step in his maturation and prove to be the dynamic force fans know he can be.
X-Factor: Alex Highsmith
Why: The Steelers will be looking for their replacement for Bud Dupree for the remainder of the 2020 season (and possibly beyond) starting in Week 13. As expected, rookie Alex Highsmith will be the first one called upon to try to fill the shoes of the Steelers outside linebacker. Based solely on his experience, Washington will look at Highsmith as the weakest link on the Steelers fantastic defensive front.
Will Highsmith step up to the challenge and make Washington pay the price? Although I believe he is more than capable of getting the job done, it will ultimately be up to his play on the field to keep the Steelers impressive defensive unit intact and working together.
X-Factor: Terry McLaurin / Antonio Gibson
Why: There are two who need to be mentioned here: WR Terry McLaurin and RB Antonio Gibson. McLaurin is a 2nd year player who has looked like a star ever since he first stepped onto the field last year. He currently has the 5th most receiving yards in the NFL despite a constantly-changing QB lineup (Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, and Alex Smith) throwing to him and an offense that doesn’t feature WRs very heavily. He’s also got the most YAC among WRs in the NFL, is a willing blocker, and does whatever other dirty work is required of him to help the team, chasing down a defender after an interception to prevent a return TD in a great play last week.
Antonio Gibson is an amazing athlete who flew under a lot of people’s radars in the lead up to the draft, but was being touted among some draft-watchers as one of the most explosive players in this year’s draft. He was initially trained as a WR in high school and college and only fully converted to RB in his last year of college, which is partly why he went unnoticed for a 6’0”, 228 pound man who can run the 40 yard dash in 4.39 seconds. He’s an interesting combination of big and powerful, but also fast and elusive (with the 5th best broken tackle rate in the NFL right now). He’s been limited by game flow in many games (if we get down on points early, we turn away from the run), but broke out for 136 rushing yards and 3 TDs last week and we’re hoping to see more games like that when we can keep the score close or take a lead.
Who would be your X-Factor for the Week 13 game in Pittsburgh? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!