Who is the Steelers X-Factor vs. the Raiders in Week 3?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to play the Las Vegas Raiders tonight in the desert in Week 3, 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 3:
X-Factor: The Offensive Line
Why: Last week I chose Kenny Pickett as my X-Factor, and he absolutely let me down. But I wasn’t alone in this regard. While Pickett will be an very integral part of the Steelers equation, I’ve come to understand the offensive line might have more to do with the overall success, and by proxy Pickett’s success, in Week 3.
Pickett, like most young quarterbacks, needs a consistent running game to be able to keep things balanced. He isn’t ready to throw the ball 40 times a game on the way to victories. Instead, it will be imperative the Steelers offensive line start to get some push up front so they can take pressure off Pickett and the passing game.
Likewise, if Pickett feels as if he has time early in the game, you’ve seen him be more poised in the pocket. He is more trusting of the protection and willing to stay in the pocket instead of getting “happy feet” and trying to escape at the first sign of distress.
The Steelers will go as the offensive line goes.
X-Factor: The Run Defense
Why: The low-hanging fruit of T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith could be the answer every week, but that wouldn’t be much fun to read. But looking specifically at the Steelers opponent this week, the Raiders are only averaging 58.0 rushing yards despite having the 2022 rushing leader in Josh Jacobs. The Steelers need to keep this trend going and force Jimmy Garapolo to beat them through the air despite having their own struggles stopping the run through two games. If something is going to give in this game, either improved rushing by the Raiders or improved run defense by the Steelers, then Pittsburgh needs to be the one making a step forward in order to help achieve victory.
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 Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3.