When looking at the matchup between divisional 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 8 game vs. the Browns?
Let’s take a look...
X-Factor: T.J. Watt
Why: The Browns want to trot Baker Mayfield out there with a banged up left shoulder, that’s fine. It is then up to T.J. Watt to get to Mayfield early and often. But the impact Watt has on this game goes far beyond rushing the passer. As illustrated in Geoffrey Benedict’s film room this week, see the link below, Watt will have a critical role in stopping the run too.
If Watt can be the dominant player fans expect from his for four quarters, he can be disruptive. Disruptive to the point where he wrecks the Browns’ game plan. Believe it or not, this is the type of game the Steelers need from Watt if they want to leave Week 8 victorious. No Melvin Ingram to back up means Watt will have a lot on his plate, and his annual salary shows these are the games where he shows up, and shows out.
X-Factor: The Offensive Tackles
Why: The reason I did not list a specific name is because I’m not even 100% sure who is going to be starting and playing at both of the tackles for the Steelers on Sunday. Between Chuks Okorafor, Dan Moore, Zach Banner, and even Joe Haeg, who exactly gets the nod at which position isn’t exactly known. Regardless of who is called upon at either tackle position, both are going to need to step up in order to slow down the Browns pass rush as well as get the run game going for the Steelers against a tough Cleveland defense that does everything well except to keep their opponents from scoring points.
Chris Pokorny (Dawgs By Nature)
X-Factor: Jack Conklin
Why: It might sound like an unusual X-Factor, but I would go with right tackle Jack Conklin by a large margin. He has missed the past two games to injury, but was playing at a really high level prior to that. He will make his return against Pittsburgh, with the important task of blocking T.J. Watt. As if that wasn’t important enough, it’s even more important now since Baker Mayfield is trying to return and play through a painful left shoulder injury. One wrong hit, and Mayfield could be forced to the sideline again in favor of Case Keenum.
Who would be your X-Factor for the Week 8 game in Cleveland? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!