As we will do every Saturday to get you ready for the week’s game, our X Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. What will make or break the Pittsburgh Steelers as they play host to the Cincinnati Bengals.
X Factor: Bud Dupree
After missing Week One due to injury, Bud Dupree got off to a hot start. But he’s waned over the past few weeks, perhaps because of a shoulder injury that he’s admitted it likely to nag him for the rest of the season. But he needs to get back to what he showed off in Week Two (six pressures) against the Minnesota Vikings.
There’s been excuses over the last two weeks. In Week 5, the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t have a good reason to throw the football. Lats week, he had a tough matchup in RT Mitchell Schwartz. This week, however, is an easier matchup. Dupree will fact Andre Smith, brought back after a short stint in Minnesota, and is considered one of the poorest athletes at the position.
Getting after Andy Dalton will still be tough. The Bengals’ offense isn’t humming but singing a better tune since they made a switch at offensive coordinator. Dalton has a history of getting the ball out quick, too. But the Steelers, as we’ve seen, and as is the obvious, are at their best when the front four gets home. The Bengals’ offensive line is in tatters compared to a year ago, losing their two best players – Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler – to free agency. In its place, they’ve put in backups and offered rotations at tackle, as Matthew Marczi wrote about earlier this week.
For Dupree, that’s likely to mean matching up against Jake Fisher, too. He’s much more athletic but inexperienced and hasn’t played nearly as well as expected when he was drafted out or Oregon.
Bottom line. Dupree has to show off this week. He has to be able to convert speed to power and have a better pass rushing plan. Do that and he’ll have a field day. And the Bengals’ offense will regress in a hurry.