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 Green Bay Packers.
X Factor: Splash Plays
I know at this point, I sound like a broken record. In my defense, so does the Steelers’ offense. Hopefully I’m playing a better tune. As I said in Friday’s Terrible Take, this isn’t an offense or a team that can run crisp, efficient ten play drives. Not even close. And everyone knows it.
If Pittsburgh will pull the upset over the Green Bay Packers, they’re going to have to make splash plays. In all three facts: offense, defense, and special teams.
On offense, this is a unit struggling to put anything together. Their best path right now, and it’s something they’ve been trying to do, is to create the big play. Throw the deep ball, they did it repeatedly in Week 2’s loss to the Raiders, though the results obviously haven’t been there. But this isn’t an offense that’ll methodically papercut a defense the way say, the Packers are capable of doing. A 50 yard pass that can flip field position and set up a scoring drive. For now, and maybe the rest of the season, that’s their ticket.
But even that might be asking too much from this Steelers’ offense. The other phases of the game has to make big plays just the same. Getting stops, forcing field goals and punts isn’t enough for this group. Just as it wasn’t in 2019. They need to take the ball away. If this defense doesn’t create turnovers, the Steelers’ odds of losing plummet. Dating back to last year (including playoffs), the Steelers are 12-2 when their defense records a takeaway. They’re 1-5 when they don’t. Intuitively, we know teams who force turnovers increase their chances of winning a game but I’m betting that difference is starker than most other teams.
Special teams can’t be forgotten about either. That’s how the team won its season opener against the Bills with a punt-block touchdown. They don’t have to put the ball in the end zone but if they can create a big play, a blocked field goal, long return, fake punt, something that can steal a possession, create a splash play, all in an effort to give this offense life.
I know, It’s a high-bar to set. But this team isn’t a well-oiled machine. They’re sputtering, misfiring, and move as well as the Tin Man before getting his oil can. More than any other team, they’re going to have to create 3-4 shot plays a game to stay competitive and eek out victories.