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mesaSteeler
01-23-2011, 12:22 PM
Potential Steelers X factors
January, 23, 2011
Jan 23 12:00 PM ET
http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth
By James Walker
PITTSBURGH -- Everyone knows the importance of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Pro Bowl defenders Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. But those aren't the only players to keep an eye on for Pittsburgh.

Here are several potential X factors for the Steelers in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Jets:

1. Heath Miller, TE

Skinny: Miller did not play in the regular-season loss to the Jets in Week 15 but could play a big role on Sunday. New York's cornerbacks are very good, which means Roethlisberger could look underneath for Miller to take advantage of the Jets' safeties and linebackers. Miller led the Steelers with five receptions and a touchdown in last week's win over the Ravens.

2. LaMarr Woodley, OLB

Skinny: Woodley always steps up big in the playoffs. He's recorded at least one sack in all five career postseason games with the Steelers. Pittsburgh got only one sack on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first meeting and needs to turn up the pressure in the rematch. Woodley will join Harrison as the two biggest components to Pittsburgh's pass rush.

3. Emmanuel Sanders/Antonio Brown, WRs

Skinny: The Steelers have been fortunate to get great production from their rookie class, particularly late in the season. Sanders and Brown caught the Ravens by surprise, combining for seven receptions and 129 yards in their postseason debuts. Their matchups against New York’s third and fourth cornerbacks could be one of the quiet storylines in this game.

4. Ziggy Hood, DE

Skinny: Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been very complimentary of Hood in recent weeks -- and for good reason. The 2009 first-round draft pick is coming on strong late in his second season with Pittsburgh. Hood filled in admirably for injured defensive end Aaron Smith and has recorded a sack in three consecutive games. Hood had perhaps his best game as a Steeler in the divisional round with five tackles and a sack against Baltimore. He's also been stout against the run, which will be key against the run-heavy Jets.

5. Shaun Suisham, K

Skinny: Suisham has been a solid midseason pickup for Pittsburgh. But kicking in Heinz Field in January is no easy task, and Suisham has missed field goals in two of his past three games. With frigid temperatures expected, Suisham has to be ready if this rematch comes down to the kicking game.

steeltheone
01-23-2011, 01:04 PM
The reason Tomlin has been complimentary is because Hood has been far and away the best player on the line the past 4 or 5 games. He earned it!

MACH1
01-23-2011, 01:22 PM
6. Special teams.

We can't give up any big plays on kicks. That killed us last time.

wutchy
01-23-2011, 04:06 PM
6. Special teams.

We can't give up any big plays on kicks. That killed us last time.

Wise beyond words.

wutchy
01-23-2011, 04:12 PM
The Steeler LB that covers Keller will either be the hero or the goat.
We know that Troy will cover LT out of the backfield, and he can do that.

This will be a short passing game contest.

Also, an X factor could be a false start that kills a drive. Steelers like Adams, TE Johnson, and Scott are suspects already.

I expect to see the Steelers run a lot of 2 TE sets, so TE false starts could be a major factor. The secind TE doesn't get a lot of game reps, so they are likely to jump the gun in pressure situations. Scott has to block Jason Taylor, I can see a false start or two already.