The Pittsburgh Steelers began their 2021 season off on the right foot with an upset win over the Buffalo Bills last week. Most of our x-factors from last week’s matchup against the Bills had a significant impact in the game. Kicker Chris Boswell was perfect including a clutch field goal late, inside linebacker Devin Bush led the team in tackles and Pat Freiermuth blocked extremely well, including a 24-yard reception (longest by a Steelers receiver in the game) late in the 3rd quarter.
The Steelers face a different, but effective offense in the Las Vegas Raiders this weekend. Derek Carr threw for 435 yards in Week 1 with six receivers having over 45 yards. The offense is designed for and around, tight end, Darren Waller. Waller was targeted an astounding 19 times on Monday night in Las Vegas. Our x-factors for this week start there.
1.) Devin Bush and Joe Schobert
I am right back to these guys here. Carr is not much of a threat in the running game like Josh Allen, so the two middle linebackers will have the ability to worry a little less about a quarterback scrambling. It will be all hands on deck to contain Waller and I would be shocked if we saw one of these linebackers covering him one-on-one often. With that said, they certainly will have to do their part in double teams and being physical with him when he comes across the middle of the field. He is their key to a successful offensive game plan and the Steelers should keep him outside the hash marks for the entirety of this game.
2.) Ben Roethlisberger
Listen, Sunday was a great win, but averaging just 5.9 yards per pass ain’t going to cut it. Roethlisberger did a great job making smart decisions and not turning the ball over, but he needs to perform better overall. Mistake-free football is one thing, but the offense needs to be more dynamic in order to really cause a ruckus in the AFC. I am not asking for the 39-year old veteran to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns. We see his role as being more of a leader and facilitator on the field. This week, however, the Steelers may need to put up some points if the Raiders and Waller have success early. The Steelers can’t start slow and Roethlisberger has to be on top of his game right away.
3.) The Offensive Line
Hard to really single any one out here. Yannick Ngakoue is expected to play after dealing with a hamstring injury and the Raiders defense sacked a very mobile, Lamar Jackson, three times on Monday Night Football. Maxx Crosby is a disruption for the Raiders defense just as TJ Watt is for the Steelers. The important number however, is the 189 yards that the Raiders allowed on the ground. We have been longing for a dominant game running the football for what seems like for years, This could be the game we see that take place. Establishing the run early and opening up the play action for Roethlisberger could lead to a Steelers blowout for the home opener.
4.) Steeler Nation
Are yinz ready for the first true home game since 2019? This crowd better be fired up! I need to think and believe I am at the game while I sit in my living room and watch. Wave those terrible towels and give this talented team an advantage that makes the Raiders want to hop on a plane and never come back. Treat it like it is Roethlisberger’s last home opener and welcome the new members of the squad to Pittsburgh in the right fashion. Pittsburgh is the best football city in the world. Prove that on Sunday if you are at the game and be the x-factor that sends Jon Gruden and his team packing with their first loss of the season.
Who/what are your x-factors for Sunday’s game vs. the Raiders? Let us know in the comments below!