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 Monday night’s contest against the Miami Dolphins.
X Factor: Javon Hargrave
Not many bad options to choose from for this team coming off the bye against the easiest game on their schedule, though I don’t want to overlook this Miami team either. They’ve been right in their last three games and are playing their best ball of the season.
This will be the first game without Stephon Tuitt or rather, the first where Hargrave will be elevated into something resembling an every down role. He’ll play as much as he possibly can and in a variety of alignments and fronts. His role as a 3-4 nose is a given. Working in the Steelers’ 2-4-5 is nothing new either. But he will end up playing a decent amount of left end snaps, lining up as the 4i (inside shade of the right tackle) to help replace Tuitt. That isn’t brand new for Hargrave, he did it 13 times prior to the Chargers’ game, but that role will certainly be elevated now.
The job he’s done and talent he’s shown makes me feel confident he can replace Tuitt but you still want to see it over extended snaps. When he’s playing more, testing that conditioning, and having that pressure on him to help carry the pass rush.
For this matchup specifically, the defensive line should – and needs to – win against the hapless Dolphins’ o-line, the worst unit of the worst team in football. There’s no reason why he and Cam Heyward can’t collapse the pocket and push Ryan Fitzpatrick out of the pocket and into TJ Watt’s and Bud Dupree’s awaiting arms.
Miami’s run game has perked up a bit the last few weeks, led by Mark Walton, a talented back who ran into off the field trouble that got him run out of Cincinnati. Make this offense one-dimensional and they have no chance; when both areas are working well enough, they still haven’t found ways to clinch their first victory.
The mantra here is controlling this game. That begins by controlling the line of scrimmage, led now by Hargrave and company.