As we will do every Saturday to get you ready for the week’s game, our X Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. What will make or break the Pittsburgh Steelers as they take on the Chicago Bears.
X Factor: Ryan Shazier
The last time Shazier was an X Factor for one of these posts was for the Buffalo Bills game last season. And he responded in a big way, I assume, because he read this post. So we’ll challenge him again this Sunday.
I circle Shazier’s name for one reason: Tarik Cohen. The Bears’ hotshot rookie back. Maybe he isn’t the next Darren Sproles but that’s the one name you’ll see him compared to by every analyst on your television and it fits well enough. And the parallels are interesting. Last year, the Steelers entered Week 3 undefeated and took on the Eagles, who of course had Sproles, and were unable to stop him.
Bears lack weapons. Using Cohen all over the place. Runs routes like a WR, he'll be tough to contain. pic.twitter.com/jzLXFW2lun
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 21, 2017
That can’t happen again. So it’ll be up to Shazier, whose unique athleticism can match Cohen in space. Cohen will be used all over the field. Traditional running back, Pony looks with other RB Jordan Howard, and split out like a traditional WR. He can run routes like one, too. Watch him turn around this defender against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And the Bears look to get runs on the perimeter. Lot of outside zone and toss plays. Fast flow defenses, like how the Minnesota Vikings shut down the Steelers, are key. And that’ll start with Shazier being able to force the run inside if the run is to him or coming from the backside to squeeze the run if it’s away.
Hopefully Shazier will get to blitz a little more, too. Quarterback Mike Glennon isn’t running away from Daniel McCullers, let alone Shazier. There’s a chance for a sack from him, which would be his first of the year.
If he can have a sack, several run stops, and tackle Cohen in space, the Steelers should have no problem containing the Bears’ offense Sunday.