As we will do every week to get you ready for the upcoming game, our X Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. The key area to watch in Sunday night’s showdown versus the Buffalo Bills.
X Factor: David DeCastro
It’s not often we dedicate these X Factor articles to an offensive linemen. But this one deserves it. The victor of this game will be the one who runs the ball best. And DeCastro, as usual, is an integral part of that. Buffalo has an excellent pass defense but a vulnerable front seven, ranking 21st in run defense this season. Considering Sunday’s forecast, cold, possibly snowy, and windy, you can bet the Steelers will have every reason to pound the rock.
Which means leaning on power and DeCastro pulling right to left. It’s been a staple concept for years and something they’ve used time and time again the past three weeks. And over that span, Pittsburgh’s run the ball for 120+ yards each game, the first time that’s been done in more than five years.
In a game like this, with evenly matched teams, you just line up and run your best plays. For Pittsburgh’s run game, that’s power and #66 leading the way.
When it comes to pass protection, he’ll have key battles against NT Jordan Phillips, an imposing figure but also the Bills’ leader in sacks with 7.5. And if he doesn’t see Phillips, he’ll take on rookie Ed Oliver, a totally differently built defensive tackle second on the team with five sacks.
Bottom line. DeCastro is going to be a key player in every snap, run or pass. He’s the Steelers’ best offensive linemen and looking long-term, may play himself into a Hall of Fame conversation someday. Stepping up this weekend is one of those staple games, a linemen taking over in a snowy December playoff race, fans will remember years from now. And clips that may end up being shown in a Canton induction someday.