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 Sunday’s contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.
X FACTOR: OT Dan Moore Jr.
Choosing Moore this week might have been the easiest decision of any of the weekly “X Factor’s” this season. Moore gets to step up to the plate in the form of facing elite pass rusher Myles Garrett. Moore’s probably already have “Welcome to the NFL” type moments but nothing he’s done so far pales in comparison to what he’s about to go do.
Moore is a hard-worker and battle-tested in the SEC, facing college football’s best on big stages time and time again. But that’s nothing compared to a guy like Garrett. Garrett can and has played on both sides of the defense, left end and right, but I can promise you he’ll spend most of his time at RDE this week to test a rookie in Moore.
Stopping Garrett is going to require giving Moore help. It is a little harder to do that on the left side, a little more unnatural on the left side than the right. The tight end isn’t generally aligned to that way, the back often sets up the other side, but Pittsburgh will have avoid Moore being left on an island as much as possible.
Even then, Moore will have to bring his A-game. Kendrick Green has gotten much of the focus as far as rookies go on this O-line. Moore has played better than Green overall but he’s been far from great either, an inconsistent player against speed and power rushes. Garrett is elite and using both to win and his arsenal of tools makes him tough for any offensive tackle, rookie or not, to prepare for. Alejandro Villanueva had big fits with Garrett and Villanueva was a better tackle than Moore is right now with more size and length to handle Garrett’s freakishness.
Of course, the goal for the Steelers will be to stay on script and avoid third and long. That’s every team’s gameplan. No one enters a week saying “let’s play behind the sticks this week.” But some teams are better equipped at it than others. And it’s not a position a Pittsburgh offense with an immobile quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger. 3rd and 7+ is not the place you want or need to be.
Moore versus Garrett is the matchup that makes me the most nervous this weekend. Garrett has wrecked tackles much better than him and he can take over and change the course of games. Most times when he does, it’s in a Browns’ victory. Moore doesn’t need to be perfect but he needs to play the best game of his career and limit the damage in pass pro.