As we’ll 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. Our X Factor for tomorrow’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
X Factor: Kendrick Green
The Steelers’ o-line has been an X-Factor in two of the first three weeks. And with good reason. It’ll continue to be under the microscope until things improve. And they need to in order to beat the Bengals Sunday.
Pittsburgh needs to run the ball better. You know it, I know it, the Steelers sure know it. And the Bengals do too. If teams shut down Pittsburgh’s running game, their chances of winning the game skyrocket. That’s been evident since the team’s losing streak began in 2020 and has carried over into this year. Cincinnati’s run defense has been surprisingly stout. Using the EXP metric mentioned in yesterday’s scouting report, the Bengals’ run defense is second-best in football. Here’s the top five.
Top Run Defense (Expected Points Contributed)
1. Tampa Bay – 14.3
2. Cincinnati – 13.1
3. Baltimore – 12.3
4. Carolina – 10.0
5. New Orleans – 7.5
Pittsburgh, if you’re wondering, sits ninth at 5.5.
And as we noted in the report, the Bengals’ defense is willing to sell out against the run. They’ll play an interior defensive tackle head up over center, like shown below.
And the Bengals have some good interior guys. Gone is Geno Atkins. But BJ Hill is a big guy at a listed 6’3, 303 who leads the team with two sacks over the team’s first two games. You can bet the Bengals’ scheme is going to put a lot of pressure on Green, a guy who has struggled with power and nose tackles who align over him.
Green wasn’t the sole reason why the team’s run game struggled last week but there were more than one block that he missed that could’ve led to a big gain in the run game. As expected, he’s been up-and-down to start his NFL career. He’s a rookie, an underclassman who declared early, and still learning how to play center after primarily playing guard at Illinois. But if there’s a game and time to breakout, to put it altogether, it’s this one. And boy do the Steelers need it.