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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 11
November 12, 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ARZ at CLE JAX at TEN WAS at CAR NYJ at IND DAL at NE
ATL at NO KC at CIN Sun 4 PM GB at TB Mon 9 PM
BAL at MIA NYG at PHI DET at SEA MIN at OAK PIT at SF
HOU at BUF STL at CHI SD at DEN Updated Times EST
   
Pittsburgh vs San Francisco Mon, Nov 17; 9 PM on ABC at San Francisco Stadium
  Pittsburgh Rush Catch Pass
QB Tommy Maddox 0 0 250,2
RB Amos Zereoue 30 20 0
RB Jerome Bettis 40 0 0
RB Verron Haynes 20 10 0
TE Jay Riemersma 0 20 0
WR Hines Ward 0 100,2 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 20 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 70 0
  San Francisco Rush Catch Pass
QB Tim Rattay 0 0 240,3
RB Garrison Hearst 50 20 0
RB Kevan Barlow 30 10 0
TE Jed Weaver 0 10 0
WR Terrell Owens 0 80,1 0
WR Tai Streets 0 60,1 0
WR Brandon Lloyd 0 20,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 20 0

Game Prediction: PIT 17, SF 27

Update: Cedrick Wilson has not practiced much this week due to a hamstring injury but is expected to play. Since he will likely be limited, I am adding in Brandon Lloyd into the mix. Terrell Owens has been missing practice with a groin injury but is expected to play. There are concerns that it may be more than a mere annoyance but at this point it is too early to consider him as limited since he played with it for most of last season as well.

Bettis has also missed practice and is considered as questionable for the game with a shoulder injury. Since the 49ers have one of the best rush defenses and is playing at home, I am decreasing the numbers for Bettis and bumping up Zereoue a little bit. Verron Haynes will also have at least a few plays and he and Amos will share the running duties if Bettis misses the game. Since this is the Monday night game and the status for Bettis will not be final until gametime, I am removing him from the projections. Even if he was healthy he would likely have minimal success and if limited even more. He may not even play.

The Steelers have broken their losing streak but visiting the 49ers on Monday night is hardly a place to begin a winning streak. The 49ers are 4-1 at home this season while the Steelers are only 1-3. This game should feature minimal running and maximum passing - just the right thing for a national broadcast.

Pittsburgh Notes

The Steelers come off a greatly needed win over the Cardinals and are 3-6 on the season.

Quarterbacks: Tommy Maddox finally put together a nice outing since disappointing for the previous four weeks. He only completed 12 of 24 passes last week for 159 yards but three were touchdowns. And he had no turnovers either. They cannot all be the Cardinals but thankfully, one time this season they were.

Running backs: The shift back to Jerome Bettis has so far topped out at only 54 yards rushing and his 18 carries last week was his season high. With only those few carries, Bettis still complained about feeling banged up after the game. Bettis actually had 47 yards on ten carries in the first half but was ineffective for the rest of the game. Amos Zereoue only had five carries but gained 22 yards and now has gone back to getting no passes in the game.

The Steelers are mixing in Verron Haynes a few times a game again and in very limited duty he looks almost better than Bettis or Zereoue.

OT Marvel Smith may be back after missing five of the past six games due to a pinched nerve in his neck and would add much needed blocking.

Wide Receivers: Last week was a mixed blessing. Maddox threw for three scores which were all caught by the wideouts. Hines Ward had two touchdowns on his six catches for 64 yards. Chris Doering had the other score and gained 62 yards on only two catches thanks to one 53 yard gain. But Plaxico Burress only caught one of his five passes for six yards. The exact same thing he did two weeks before.

To say that Burress has underperformed this season is like saying that the Steelers are disappointed that they are in the cellar of the AFC North (both true by the way).

For whatever reason, the odd pattern for Burress the past month is that he disappears at home (6, 6 and 19 yards) while doing far better on the road (75, 60, 56 yards). Hines Ward remains at a constant rate of around 12 passes a game and seven or so catches but Burress appears to need a plane trip in order to catch his passes which still vary from five to ten each game.

Hines Ward has five touchdowns in the past three games. Burress has not scored since week two.

Antwaan Randle El also comes off his first game in the NFL where he had no catches.

Tight Ends: Jay Riemersma is back but only had one catch for six yards. It has been six weeks since he had more than one catch though he missed several games.

Match against the defense: The lethargic run game of the Steelers is not going to be very well served by visiting the 49ers who are 4-1 at home where they have never allowed an opponent tailback to gain over 64 yards. That was Olandis Gary and he had the only rushing score as a visitor in San Francisco to make matters even more freakish.

In the last two games at San Francisco, the opponents have rushed for 55 yards in total and those were the Bucs and Rams.

The place where Pittsburgh must succeed is with the pass and Mark Bulger had 378 yards there in week nine though most teams run around 200-230 yards passing with one score. Holt had 200 yards in that game playing the same split end as Burress though flankers like Kevin Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Isaac Bruce have had nice games as well.

San Francisco Notes

The 49ers come off a bye week with a 4-5 record.

Quarterbacks: Tim Rattay is expected to take another start this week since Jeff Garcia missed practice on Monday and is still bothered by his high left ankle sprain. Rattay threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams in week nine and has not been any step down from the injured Garcia.

Running backs: The duo of Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow had little problem cruising through the Rams defense in week nine, with Hearst (17-80) barely gaining more than Barlow (14-76). That was Barlow's best game this season.

Wide Receivers: Tai Streets had three catches for 26 yards and a score with Rattay at the helm in week nine and rookie Brandon Lloyd had his first NFL score. Both did more than Terrell Owens who had a touchdown but only caught two balls for 17 yards.

There is a growing concern with Owens this season. He is bothered, yet again, by a groin strain and will miss some practice this week but still play. The concern is that he is starting to realize that he will not be a 49er next season and is short-arming some passes and losing some of the fire he normally shares all too openly. Owens only has four scores on the year and had been under 60 yards receiving five different games.

The 49ers are encouraged with the progress of Brandon Lloyd and Streets, but need all receivers on the same page to get back about .500. With the Steelers bringing the worst secondary against receivers to town, this is a good week for them all to do well.

Tight Ends: Couple of passes and never much to notice.

Match against the defense: As noted, the Steelers bring in the worst secondary that should allow Rattay, Owens and the others to have a big game. Owens and Streets are obvious starts this week but even Lloyd and Cedric Wilson may have better games.

This will be important since the Steelers also bring the best defense against the run. The 49ers will have to pass and will be able to pass.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
PIT Scores
23
29
9
31
20
16
SF Allows
23
6
28
12
2
6
PIT AP
0
-23
19
-19
-18
-10
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
SF Scores
7
21
11
29
22
12
PIT Allows
27
1
32
26
20
26
SF AP
20
-20
21
-3
-2
14
Offensive ranks = #1 gains most points, Defensive ranks = #1 allows least points
AP = Advantage Points, the net difference between a positional rank gained or allowed by the teams.
PIT
SF
2003 Game Averages
SF
PIT
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
208
234
Pass yards
208
228
1.0
1.4
Pass TDs
1.1
1.7
1.1
1.4
Interceptions
1.0
0.6
3
9
Rush yards
23
11
0.0
0.1
Rush TDs
0.4
0.1
---
----- 
RB's
----- 
---
76
82
Rush yards
109
67
0.6
0.4
Rush TDs
0.3
0.6
32
41
Receive yards
36
18
0.0
0
Receive TD's
0
0.0
---
----- 
WR's
----- 
---
156
164
Receive yards
153
162
1.0
1.1
Receive TD's
1.0
1.4
---
----- 
TE's
----- 
---
20
30
Receive yards
19
48
0.0
0.3
Receive TD's
0.1
0.3
---
----- 
PK's
----- 
---
1.4
1.0
Field Goals
1.3
1.6
1.9
2.0
Extra Points
2.1
2.6
---
----- 
DEF/ST
----- 
---
0.4
0.4
Fumbles
0.4
0.4
0.6
1.1
Interceptions
1.4
1.3
0.1
0
Touchdowns
0.1
0.3
2.9
2.1
Sacks
2.4
2.7
0.0
0
Safeties
0
0.1
Steelers (3-6)
Score Opp.
34-15 BAL
20-41 @KC
17-10 @CIN
13-30 TEN
13-33 CLE
14-17 @DEN
Week 7 BYE
21-33 STL
16-23 @SEA
28-15 ARZ
Week 11 @SF
Week 12 @CLE
Week 13 CIN
Week 14 OAK
Week 15 @NYJ
Week 16 SD
Week 17 @BAL
49ers (4-5)
Score Opp.
49-7 CHI
24-27 @STL
12-13 CLE
7-35 @MIN
24-17 DET
19-20 @SEA
24-7 TB
13-16 @ARZ
30-10 STL
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 PIT
Week 12 @GB
Week 13 @BAL
Week 14 ARZ
Week 15 @CIN
Week 16 @PHI
Week 17 SEA

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points