If the Pittsburgh Steelers win in a blowout, then I suppose it doesn’t really matter who our choice for an X Factor is. But rarely do these AFC North games shake out that way and if it’s close, someone on the offense is going to have to make a play in a crucial moment.
There are the obvious choices for that crown: Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell all need to play to their usual expected level. But they’re obvious and not worthy of the X Factor tag.
And while I realize Cobi Hamilton has been generally uninvolved in the Steelers’ offense even with a high snap count total, when he makes plays, they’re big ones. We’ve talked about it before. When he makes his catches, they come on third down. 75% of his grabs come on third down. He isn’t someone who sees much volume but the impact of his plays shouldn’t be forgotten.
He’s not someone who you’re going to lean on to win a Super Bowl, like I wrote not too long ago, but in situational moments, a big third down to keep a drive alive, control the clock, win a game, whatever the situation calls for. Roethlisberger has trust in all his guys but you have to admit Hamilton has come up big in almost every situation.
Last week, we saw his value as a blocker. He’s the best blocking receiver who is healthy and in the lineup and helped spring Bell to some much-needed long runs in the beatdown of the Buffalo Bills a week ago. The Bengals’ run defense is average at best, partly attributed to wanting to play a two deep shell, so the run game needs to be effective.
If Hamilton comes up big, his presence won’t be felt in a box score. It’ll probably read something like: three catches for 32 yards. But odds are they will all be important chain movers while his blocking will offer an element that can’t be quantified.