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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey  

Sortable Player Projections | Game Predictions Summary | Projections by Team

JAC at ATL (thu) * CIN at STL * MIA at BUF SEA at CHI
DAL at TB (sat) * CLE at ARI NE at DEN * TEN at IND
BAL at SD * DET at OAK * NO at MIN WAS at NYG
* UPDATED CAR at HOU GB at KC * NYJ at PHI * PIT at SF (mon)

Prediction: PIT 23, SF 17

Update: Ben Roethlisberger was held out of practices and then did limited work on Friday. He has not been ruled out and this is the same ankle injury that he played with against the Browns. There is always the chance that Big Ben is a game time decision and that he tweaks the ankle in warmups or the game but he has always played hurt in the past and always played well. The Steelers cannot afford a loss and playing in SF is their hardest remaining game by far. You take a risk with Big Ben and with him Wallace and Brown but at least he is getting better and again - he played on it last week.

This is a Monday night game worth delaying Christmas shopping another day because realistically everything goes on sale late and you like to be frugal anyway. The Steelers are 10-3 and in a four way tie for the #1 seed in the AFC though they lose head to head with the Ravens if it comes down to that. The Steelers are on a four game winning streak and ad 4-2 in road games. The 49ers are also 10-3 but come off an upset loss to the Cardinals and have already clinched their division. The 49ers are tied for the #2 seed in the NFC but have been living mostly on defense. This should be a really interesting game and particularly for the 49ers who have rolled up their win-loss playing Whack-a-Mole with the NFC West.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @BAL 7-35 10 @CIN 24-17
2 SEA 24-0 11 Bye -
3 @IND 23-20 12 @KC 13-9
4 @HOU 10-17 13 CIN 35-7
5 TEN 38-17 14 CLE 14-3
6 JAC 17-13 15 @SF -
7 @ARI 32-20 16 STL -
8 NE 25-17 17 @CLE -
9 BAL 20-23      
Steelers Report | Statistics | Roster
PITTSBURGH at SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger - - 290,2
RB Rashard Mendenhall 40 - -
TE Heath Miller - 20 -
WR Antonio Brown - 80,1 -
WR Hines Ward - 30 -
WR Emmanuel Sanders - 40 -
WR Mike Wallace - 90,1 -
PK Shaun Suisham 3 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: If the Steelers can get past this week with a win, then CLE and STL should allow them to end 13-3 on the season and force the Ravens to win on the road in San Diego and Cincinnati - a bit tougher. The Steelers will be without OLB James Harrison who is suspended from this game but the 49ers are not winning their division thanks to a powerful offense. Big Ben has to get past the high ankle sprain again this week and help pull out a win here.

QUARTERBACK: Despite playing on a badly rolled ankle, Ben Roethlisberger turned in his most productive game in five weeks when he passed for 280 yards and two scores on the Browns vaunted secondary. This week will be a bigger challenge since he's only passed for seven touchdowns in his six road games and that includes the three in Arizona. Big Ben has almost always posted one touchdown and yet healthy yardage in away games. He has a grade one high ankle sprain and may not practice much this week but is still expected to end up playing in pain if need be.

The 49ers rank well against the pass but each time they have faced a truly good quarterback they have allowed two or more scores and high yardage. The rushing game should be next to nothing this week so passing will be the key and that is how these Steelers play now anyway. And also why Big Ben cannot be replaced.

RUNNING BACKS: It was disappointing to see Rashard Mendenhall get four cracks at the goal line against the Cleveland Browns and never score. Mendenhall settled for only 76 yards on 18 carries against one of the softest rushing defenses in the league but that is yet another sign that the Steelers are no longer built for a power running game and cannot produce one when they want. Mendenhall has topped 80 rushing yards only once and has scored eight times this year.

The 49ers are so dominating against the run, it is surprising that anyone even bothers. No running back has ran in a score on them all year and 64 yards is the highest rushing mark by any individual running back against them. Mendenhall is only good for around 50 yards at home versus a soft defense. Forget it this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS: The Steelers do offer a diverse set of receivers though Mike Wallace remains the lead dog even though he has cooled significantly in the last month. He did score twice against the Bengals but has not topped 57 yards in that time. Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders and even Hines Ward remain factors each week if only for a catch or three but Antonio Brown has already taken a big step up and been a solid fantasy start in every game since week seven. He has only scored twice but has three efforts over 100 yards and never fewer than 67 yards for seven games now. Brown reaches his third season in 2012 and will make a very dangerous pair with Wallace. Brown will be the new Hines Ward only probably better.

There is no question that this is where the Steelers have to find an advantage and score. Both Wallace and Brown are must starts every week and have an equal chance at scoring but only one player has topped 100 receiving yards on the 49ers in San Francisco.

TIGHT ENDS: Minimal fantasy value from Heath Miller . Thanks to all the viable wideouts, Miller has been little more than one or two catches per game and marginal yardage at best. No reason to start Miller in game for the rest of the year.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 11 20 3 18 22 24
Preventing Fantasy Points SF 11 1 22 5 1 3

San Francisco 49ers
Homefield: Monster Park
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 SEA 33-17 10 NYG 27-20
2 DAL 24-27 11 ARI 23-7
3 @CIN 13-8 12 @BAL 6-16
4 @PHI 24-23 13 STL 26-0
5 TB 48-3 14 @ARI 19-21
6 @DET 25-19 15 PIT -
7 Bye - 16 @SEA -
8 CLE 20-10 17 @STL -
9 @WAS 19-11      
49ers Report | Statistics | Roster
SAN FRANCISCO vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Alex Smith - - 180,1
RB Frank Gore 60,1 - -
RB Kendall Hunter 20 20 -
TE Vernon Davis - 50,1 -
WR Kyle Williams - 20 -
WR Braylon Edwards - 10 -
WR Michael Crabtree - 50 -
PK David Akers 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: This will be a good test for the 49ers who have been so dominating on defense and should get LB Patrick Willis back this week from his hamstring injury. What may impact the offense is LT Joe Staley who had a concussion last week and will be monitored to see if he can play. But this is the final game of note for the 49ers and their last home stand before the playoffs. Only road trips to Seattle and St. Louis remain

QUARTERBACK: Alex Smith has been mediocre for the most part this year with the standard 200 yards and one score against tougher defenses which he has not often faced. Going against the visiting Browns, he only passed for 177 yards and one touchdown and in Baltimore he was held to 140 yards and no scores along with nine sacks.

The Steelers bring in a secondary that is top three against quarterbacks and wide receivers. They have allowed just 14 touchdowns all season and Smith will be very hard pressed to get more than one score if even that. Not a week to start Smith if you can avoid it.

RUNNING BACKS: Although Frank Gore insists he is healthy again, he has been far less productive since week ten when he hurt his ankle and was hampered by it since. Gore was on a string of scoring and topping 100 rush yards for five weeks prior and now has just one score in the five recent games and never more than 88 yards. Last week in Arizona, he was only allowed 10 carries. HC Jim Harbaugh insists he is not going to rest his starters just because they clinched the division but Gore is carrying a lighter load in the recent weeks.

There is a a chance for a rushing score here but Gore is unlikely to have a big yardage game against a defense that shut down most runners and limited all but Ray Rice and Arian Foster.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Michael Crabtree claims to be as healthy as he has been all year and he has been especially effective for the last month but he has just two touchdowns on the season and most of his big games have been at home against ARI or STL. In Baltimore, Crabtree was held to 54 yards on six catches as an example and he had 63 yards on seven receptions just last week in Arizona. That's easily the tops for this unit though where no player has more than two scores and Kyle Williams has scored and had decent yardage only in those two easy home stands.

The Steelers are #2 against the position and about all that is here is Crabtree. They have to notice that. No worth starts here.

TIGHT ENDS: The most likely receiver to have any success this time is Vernon Davis who has been much better in home games where all four of his scores were made and while his yardage has been far less than last season, he makes a reasonable fantasy start against a defense that is just dominating on all other positions and have this as their only relative weakness.

Gaining Fantasy Points SF 27 15 30 8 1 5
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 3 6 2 11 3 14

JAC at ATL (thu) CIN at STL MIA at BUF SEA at CHI
DAL at TB (sat) CLE at ARI NE at DEN TEN at IND
  CAR at HOU GB at KC NYJ at PHI PIT at SF (mon)

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