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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 6
October 8, 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM *TB at WAS Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM Bye Week:
*CAR at IND MIA at JAX *BUF at NYJ SF at SEA Cincinnati
CHI at NO *NYG at NE *PIT at DEN Mon 9 PM Detroit
HOU at TEN OAK at CLE Sun 4 PM *ATL at STL Minnesota
KC at GB PHI at DAL *BAL at ARZ *updated San Diego
   
Pittsburgh vs Denver Sun, Oct 12; 4 PM on CBS at Invesco Field
  Pittsburgh Rush Catch Pass
QB Tommy Maddox 0 0 240,2
RB Amos Zereoue 40 50 0
RB Jerome Bettis 20 0 0
TE Jay Riemersma 0 10 0
WR Hines Ward 0 70,1 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 30 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 60,1 0
  Denver Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve Beuerlein 0 0 200,2
RB Clinton Portis 110,1 30 0
TE Shannon Sharpe 0 30,1 0
WR Rod Smith 0 70,1 0
WR Ed McCaffrey 0 20 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 40 0


Game Prediction: PIT 14, DEN 27

Update: Jay Riemersma has an inflammation in his shoulder but is expected to play though limited.

Jake Plummer threw the ball yesterday in practice but could not throw far down field. Steve Beuerlein took most of the first team snaps and will start if Plummer does not show improvement. There is some concern that this is worse than when he injured his shoulder earlier in the season. I am considering him as out this week and will project for Beuerlein but the situation may not be resolved until gametime as is common with the Broncos.

Pittsburgh Notes

Quarterbacks: After starting out red hot this season, Tommy Maddox has spent the past four games throwing two touchdowns against six interceptions which is incidentally the same number of touchdowns he has thrown for the secondaries that face him. He even added a fumble last game to his repertoire. Although Maddox was relieved by Charlie Batch last week in the surprise bloodletting in Pittsburgh, the team still stands behind him as the unequivocal starter. Considering that the Steelers head to Denver this week and then have their bye, it may be a little worse before it gets better.

Running backs: The Steeler running game still has not materialized this season and Amos Zereoue's best running effort was against the Bengals with only 69 yards on 19 carries. After getting 16 carries in that game, Jerome Bettis has only had three in each of the past two weeks though he scored last Sunday. The real change is that now the Steelers are leaving Zereoue in on third downs. While Vernon Haynes filled that role before, now Zereoue stays in and catches passes from the backfield where he has been more effective. He had seven receptions for 57 yards last week. Considering that the Steelers head to Denver this week and then have their bye, it may be a little worse before it gets better.

Wide Receivers: With Maddox trailing off lately, the hit was felt by Hines Wards (2-55) and Plaxico Burress (1-19) last week though Burress was a little dinged with a hip pointer. Antwaan Randle El continues to be good for around three to five passes a game and is not a real factor. Chris Doering comes in on multiple receiver sets and after dropping his only pass last week might not see another for a while.

Tight Ends: Jay Riemersma did not play last week due to a shoulder injury and probably was glad considering how badly it went. Jerame Tuman subbed for him and with one catch for five yards is not thinking about stealing the job.

Match against the defense: Last week the Steelers found themselves in one of those "what the heck" games and were unable to "un-heck" it. This week they face the Broncos who have a nice progression going against the pass. In five weeks, their opponents have thrown for 264, 182, 184, 149 and 128 yards. Hello Tommy!

It is safe to say that the Broncos have not yet met a tandem like Ward and Burress either. The big name receivers so far have been Chad Johnson (95), Jerry Rice (61), Charles Rogers (61) and that is about it. Considering that the Broncos have been fairly tough on the run should force Pittsburgh into throwing and the Steelers should get better results if only in trash time.

Even the best runners - Tomlinson and Holmes - have not gone over the 100 yard rushing mark against them.

Denver Notes

Quarterbacks: The good news is that Jake Plummer has gone four straight games without a turnover and has thrown for eight touchdowns in that time. The bad news is that Plummer aggravated his shoulder injury again and was too sore to practice on Monday. I am assuming that he plays but will update if needed.

Running backs: Clinton Portis roared back to life last week, logging 141 yards on 23 carries and tacking on 79 yards on five receptions that included a 72 yarder that ended up tantalizingly close to being a score. Portis showed no effects from his chest injury and looked very much like the cutting and juking speed demon he has been. Mike Anderson only had four carries last week, another sign that Portis is back in full force. In case you did not notice or see the game, Denver even used the wishbone formation last week. No rumors yet that Elam will start drop-kicking though.

Wide Receivers: Against the Chiefs, Rod Smith had his best week so far with eight catches for 131 yards. He and Ashley Lelie receive the lion's share of passes though Lelie missed a couple of catches last week that could have made a difference. Ed McCaffrey had two passes but no receptions. Even if Plummer is out this week, the receiver picture will not change.

Tight Ends: Although Shannon Sharpe had three catches for 40 yards last week, it was Dwayne Carswell who had the touchdown reception on his one catch. Carswell has only three on the year and only one per game if that. Sharpe had an MRI on his knee on Monday because he twisted it in the game but the results were negative and he should play this week without limitation.

Match against the defense: The Steelers pass defense has improved from last year, but now in the past two games have allowed five touchdowns against no interceptions. The problem in evaluating them is that they have not faced a great receiver other than Chad Johnson (4-77) and Derrick Mason (1-4). Pittsburgh has been able to hold down opponents who have so far not presented two good receivers against them the likes of Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie. What is worse is that in the past two games, they have allowed 35 receptions on only 41 passes which boggles the mind.

If Plummer plays to form, he should be able to exploit the secondary with Smith, Lelie and Sharpe.

The Steelers have been inconsistent against the run this season too. They held Jamal Lewis to only 69 yards, but allowed Priest Holmes to gain 122. They held Corey Dillon to only 26 yards (though he was injured) and Eddie George to only 21 yards and then gave up 115 to William Green.

Who is Portis most like? Priest Holmes, except Denver has a passing game too.

Game Prediction: Denver stumbled in Kansas City on the scoreboard but beat the Chiefs in almost all phases of the game that did not include Dante Hall. Both teams need this game to stay in the hunt but Denver has the means to get the win. The Steeler rushing attack should be stunted and Maddox forced to throw early and often. Portis should have a good game since the Steelers have been burnt by cutback runners and the Steelers recent troubles scoring will extend to four weeks and give Cowher something to chew on during their bye week.

This is the first meeting between the teams in five years.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) by position for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32) QB RB WR TE PK DEF
PIT Scores
13
20
7
21
14
21
DEN Allows
5
1
11
25
4
8
PIT AP -8 -19 4 4
-10
-13
Rank (1-32) QB RB WR TE PK DEF
DEN Scores
9
4
26
1
2
20
PIT Allows
10
7
9
27
18
31
DEN AP 1 3 -17 26
16
11
Offensive ranks - lower = gains more points, Defensive Ranks lower = allows less points
AP = Advantage Points - the net difference between a gain ranking and an allow ranking
PIT DEN 2003 Game Averages DEN PIT
Gains Allows QB's Gains Allows
266
181
Pass yards
200
161
1.0
1.2
Pass TDs
1.6
1.6
1.6
1.0
Interceptions
0.6
0.8
2
5
Rush yards
24
8
0.0
0.0
Rush TDs
0.2
0.2
----
----
RB's
----
----
79
79
Rush yards
131
80
0.8
0.2
Rush TDs
1.0
0.8
38
11
Receive yards
39
13
0.0
0.0
Receive TD's
0.2
0.0
----
----
WR's
----
----
205
123
Receive yards
122
110
0.8
1.0
Receive TD's
0.4
1.2
----
----
TE's
----
----
24
47
Receive yards
40
38
0.2
0.2
Receive TD's
1.0
0.4
0
----
PK's
0
----
1.8
1.2
Field Goals
2.4
1.4
2.0
1.6
Extra Points
3.0
3.0
----
----
DEF/ST
----
----
0.4
0.6
Fumbles
0.6
0.6
1.0
0.6
Interceptions
0.8
1.6
0.2
0.2
Touchdowns
0.2
0.8
1.8
1.4
Sacks
2.0
2.8
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.2
Steelers (2-3)
Score Opp.
34-15 BAL
20-41 @KC
17-10 @CIN
13-30 TEN
13-33 CLE
Week 6 @DEN
Week 7 BYE
Week 8 STL
Week 9 @SEA
Week 10 ARZ
Week 11 @SF
Week 12 @CLE
Week 13 CIN
Week 14 OAK
Week 15 @NYJ
Week 16 SD
Week 17 @BAL
Broncos (4-1)
Score Opp.
30-10 @CIN
37-13 @SD
31-10 OAK
20-16 DET
23-24 @KC
Week 6 PIT
Week 7 @MIN
Week 8 @BAL
Week 9 NE
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 SD
Week 12 CHI
Week 13 @OAK
Week 14 KC
Week 15 CLE
Week 16 @IND
Week 17 @GB

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points