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 4 game vs. the Packers?
Let’s take a look...
X-Factor: T.J. Watt
Why: To be fair, my X-Factor wouldn’t just be Watt, but Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram III. When this three-headed monster is on the field, they are a dynamic force. There are never any plays where the offense can rest, knowing the top pass rusher is out of the game. Steelers fans have only seen this trio do work for about 5 quarters before things started to go south in Week 2. Watt is playing in his native Wisconsin, and on top of that likely has some built up animosity after the Packers passed on him in the 2017 NFL Draft. Their loss is the Steelers gain, and the hope is Watt, and the Steelers’ pass rush, put together a memorable performance against Aaron Rodgers company. If they stand a chance, they’ll have to be dominant.
X-Factor: Kevin Dotson
Why: I decided to think a little bit out of the box this week. The Steelers offensive line, although they have been improving, are still playing below the mark. Going into the 2021 season, many Steelers fans believed Dotson was the next superstar among the group after how he played in his limited opportunities as a rookie. In the preseason, Dotson showed exactly what fans were looking for. In the regular season, that has basically disappeared. If this offensive line is going to get going, calling on the player who is expected to put forth the best performance is a good starting point. If Dotson can start to dominate, the rest of the line could very well follow with their own improvements.
Joe Meerdink (Acme Packing Company)
X-Factor: Offensive Line
Why: If I was in a grumpier mood, I’d say Kevin King, whose continued presence on the field and roster defies all reasonable explanation. If he plays (a big if both this week and throughout his career), it’s a virtual guarantee that he’ll give up a big play at some point. If he’s on the field, the degree to which he can be exploited is a legitimate X-factor.
But circling back to my first answer, I have to stick with the offensive line. If they play well individually and as a unit, the Packers can hang with anybody. They handled an elite defensive line last Sunday, and that was the difference in the game. If they can stack those performances, they’ll be in good shape. If not, the Packers can lose to anybody.
Who would be your X-Factor for the Week 4 game at Lambeau Field? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!