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Who is the Steelers X-Factor vs. the 49ers Week 1?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to play the San Francisco 49ers today at Acrisure Stadium in Week 1, and there are certain aspects of the game which can be difficult to predict. Of course, the outcome of the game is paramount, but there are players or position groups who could be viewed as X-Factors.

What is an X-Factor? That definition is an important part of this exercise. If I were to give you a player who was the ultimate X-Factor in Steelers history, it would be Troy Polamalu. Polamalu was able to take over a game almost single-handedly. Whether it being a tackle made where he looked like a heat-seeking missile, or a clutch interception. A game could tilt the Steelers’ way because of Troy.

With the definition out of the way, let’s see who are the X-Factors for the Steelers in Week 1:

Jeff Hartman

X-Factor: Offensive Line

Why: Some would call this “low hanging fruit” with picking an X-Factor, but I don’t care. The offensive line is going to be unbelievably important vs. the stout 49ers defense. When you consider the Steelers trying to remain balanced, you have to be able to get some push in the running game. On the flip side, if they want to throw the ball downfield to abuse the soft 49ers secondary, Kenny Pickett has to have the time to deliver the pass.

This offseason the Steelers invested in their offensive line by bringing in Isaac Seumalo. Will it make a difference? If the Steelers want to win this game the offensive line, or as it’s been named the Pickett Fence, will have to have a tremendous game against one of the league’s best defenses.

Dave Schofield

X-Factor: T.J. Watt

Why: It’s not just because he’s the best player, but T.J. Watt has a lot going for him this week. It’s also not that he’s 3.5 sacks away from the franchise record (even though Cam Heyward is only 2.5 away). T.J. Watt has a big matchup this week. While Alex Highsmith has to go up against the great Trent Williams, Watt will be matched up against right tackle Colton McKivitz. If your reaction is “who?” then you are getting my point. Not only does Watt need to exploit the weaker side of the 49ers offensive line, the need to also potentially draw help from a tight end and possibly even a running back will take away eligible receivers in the passing game and gives less players for the secondary to have to cover. All of this will be because of the impact of T.J. Watt.

Who is your X-Factor for the game? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to SCN for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1.


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