3 Steelers X-factors for Sunday match-up against Cincinnati

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 02: Jaylen Samuels #38 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs into the end zone for a 10 yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 02: Jaylen Samuels #38 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs into the end zone for a 10 yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 16: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with Vance McDonald #89 and B.J. Finney #67 after a 3 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field on September 16, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 16: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with Vance McDonald #89 and B.J. Finney #67 after a 3 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field on September 16, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Ryan Finney

Finney is filling in for the suspended Maurkice Pouncey at center. Fortunately for the Steelers, they have a back-up center in Finney who has some experience as a starter, including one this season in the win versus the Colts (he’s logged ten starts over the past four seasons).

The reason Finney is an X-Factor this week is because of who he will often be lined up against throughout the course of the game. The starting nose/1-technique for the Bengals (aligns between the center and the guard) is big Andrew Billings. At 6’1, and nearly 330 pounds, he is a lot to handle for anyone; especially a backup center.

Billings is difficult to block due to his ability to keep leverage using his shorter stature. While Billings is difficult to move, Finney is a thick strong player himself. It is going to be a key match-up that very well may determine Pittsburgh’s success to run inside the tackles.

In the occasions which Billings isn’t in the game on passing situations, Finney may draw Geno Atkins. Atkins is one of the best interior linemen the league has to offer. His game is quite different from Billings; he has more capability to win with speed; and deploys his hands exceptionally well.

Finney has been up to the test; on his 120 snaps he has yet to allow a sack; and according to Pro Football Focus currently grades higher than the Cowboys pro-bowl center, Travis Frederick.

Next. Steelers vs Bengals: 3 Key Matchups to watch in week 12. dark

Finney is our final X-Factor, but possibly our most important. Interior pressure can ruin a passing attack, and interior penetration can destroy a running game. In a crucial point of the season, Finney will be in the spotlight.