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. The key area to watch in tomorrow night’s matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
X Factor: Devin Bush
Even if Devlin Hodges holds his own in his first NFL start, the Steelers’ defense is going to have to be the strength of this unit. They’re going to have to force the Chargers to settle for field goals or preferably, punt and turn the ball over.
This would be a great week for Bush to notch another interception. Assuming Keith Butler can take away Keenan Allen a little better than last year, Philip Rivers will have to find secondary options to make plays. Next on the list is running back Austin Ekeler, who actually leads the team with 39 receptions, including 15 of them in last week’s loss to the Denver Broncos.
If Pittsburgh produces enough brain cells to avoid linebackers on receivers, that means they’ll be matched on backs and tight ends. And Bush needs to hold Ekeler in check. Their route concepts are designed to get him the ball in the flats, put him one on one with linebackers, and win in space. Bush has to be able to shut that down.
Beyond that, as we noted in yesterday’s scouting report, the Chargers love throwing over the middle of the field. So when he’s in zone, Bush will have to use his athleticism to gain depth and squeeze those throws. If he plays his cards right, he can intercept even a veteran and potential future Hall of Famer in Rivers.
Bush isn’t going to have to worry about being the key communicator this week. That role should go back to Vince Williams. Bush just needs to play fast, defend perimeter runs and throws to the flat, tackle in space, and get depth when he’s playing zone. Continue to be a playmaker because to win this one, Pittsburgh’s defense needs to bring some splash.