When looking at the matchup between AFC rivals, 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 2 game vs. the Raiders?
Let’s take a look...
X-Factor: Najee Harris
Why: The Steelers’ clearly want to be able to run the football, but against Buffalo it was tough sledding for Najee Harris and the running game. Will that change vs. Las Vegas? It should, but having Harris as my X-Factor goes beyond yards on the ground. I feel this is the game the Steelers can feature Harris in the passing game. In Buffalo Harris was deployed out wide several occasions, but Ben Roethlisberger never looked his way. In fact, Roethlisberger misfired on several passes intended for Harris. This is the game where Harris settles in, and shows off his versatility and play-making ability. Harris can take over a game, and hopefully he does just that at Heinz Field Sunday.
X-Factor: Terrell Edmunds
Why: I was really tempted to go away from the Steelers here and pick tight end Darren Waller. Instead, I decided to go with a player who will be part of the plan to defend Waller this week. Whether he will be matched up on him directly or have to cover other places in order to send more attention to Waller, I think Terrell Edmunds will be key in making sure the Raiders tight end does an absolutely torch the Steelers as he has been doing to other NFL teams throughout the last year. If Edmunds is up to the challenge in both coverage and other responsibilities, I think that Steelers can at least limit Waller which will be key to stopping the Raiders offense.
Matt Holder (Contributor, Silver and Black Pride)
X-Factor: Hunter Renfrow
Why: Knowing that the Steelers have some question marks at nickel, makes me think Renfrow is due for a big day. He was one of the few receivers to consistently create separation for Derek Carr against the Ravens and even forced the Ravens to put Marlon Humphrey on him. I’m hoping Pittsburgh will have to do something similar, i.e. put Minkah Fitzpatrick on Renfrow, so that can take some of the attention and pressure off Darren Waller.
Who would be your X-Factor for the Week 2 game at Heinz Field? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!