When looking at the matchup between AFC North 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 1 game vs. the Bengals?
Let’s take a look...
X-Factor: T.J. Watt
Why: The 2021 Defensive Player of the Year will have a tough act to follow this season, but if there is one team which he can go out and show what he can do, it’s the Bengals. Why? Last season Watt missed the first game vs. Cincinnati and was returning from a groin injury in the second meeting, clearly not 100%. In other words, Joe Burrow didn’t have to deal with the man with 22.5 sacks much last season. If the Steelers want to pull off the upset in Cincinnati in Week 1, they’ll need their playmakers to do just that — make plays. Watt can impact the game in so many ways, and when going against an average-at-best offensive line you expect him to make himself comfortable in the Bengals’ backfield. If he can accomplish this, and the rest of the defense follows suit, the Steelers’ chances of breaking the Bengals current 3-game winning streak is strong.
X-Factor: The Offensive Line
Why: This isn’t exactly an earth-shattering take, but the Steelers offensive success starts with the offensive line. It will be very difficult to evaluate the performance of the running backs, quarterback, or receivers if the line does not get their job done first. If Najee Harris or any other running back is getting pummeled in the backfield, or if Mitch Trubisky can’t even finish his drop without pressure coming at him, it’s hard to see how effective they can be. First, the line has to do enough to get the job done in order for the other positions to then do their part. Although they don’t have to be perfect, the offensive line’s performance, both individually and collectively, will be key ingredient to get the offense going.
Who would be your X-Factor for the Week 1 game Sunday? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!