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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
October 16, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CAR at DET* MIA at TBB* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
CLE at BAL NYG at DAL* NYJ at BUF PHI, SF *Updated

Prediction: Jacksonville 6, Pittsburgh 20

Both these teams come off impressive wins and the Steelers are on a short week but they'll be back at home with the bus running once again. Jacksonville's two losses this season were to division leaders - like the Steelers.

The Steelers beat the Jaguars 17-16 in week 13 last year.

Update: Taylor has been downgraded to questionable as of Thursday and was held out of parts of practice to rest his sprained ankle. I am downgrading his projection as well. Taylor's final status for the game may not be known until very late, so be aware of the risk that he may have this week in what already was going to be a very challenging matchup against the Steelers.

Hines Ward's hamstring is also a problem and he too is listed as questionable this week. He has been held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday and HC Bill Cowher would only say that the team will see where Ward is at later in the week and that Ward "is a concern". I am downgrading Ward and his status is unclear though he was bothered by the injury last week and yet still had six catches against the Chargers.

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2)
1 26-14 SEA 10 Nov 13 BAL
2 3-10 @IND 11 Nov 20 @TEN
3 26-20 @NYJ 12 Nov 27 @ARI
4 7-20 DEN 13 Dec 4 @CLE
5 23-20 CIN 14 Dec 11 IND
6 Oct 16 @PIT 15 Dec 18 SFO
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 @HOU
8 Oct 30 @STL 17 Jan 1 TEN
9 Nov 6 HOU . . SAT
JAX at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Byron Leftwich 0 0 190
RB Fred Taylor 30 0 0
RB Alvin Pearman 30 20 0
TE Kyle Brady 0 10 0
WR Jimmy Smith 0 60 0
WR Reggie Williams 0 30 0
WR Ernest Wilford 0 20 0
WR Matt Jones 0 20 0
PK Josh Scobee 2 FG 0 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Jaguars have been winning every other game and just come off a win against the Bengals. The rushing game has improved every week and the defense has kept them in games. The key to this week - playing on the road in Pittsburgh for the toughest game of the year.

Quarterback: While Byron Leftwich had two scores last week, he only completed 10 of 24 passes for 161 yards and had to use Ernest Willford and George Wrighster to get that much. On the road, Leftwich has topped out at only 198 yards which was in Indianapolis and the success of the rushing game has served to decrease the passing numbers.

Leftwich had 268 yards and one score in the previous meeting against the Steelers.

Running Backs: Fred Taylor had his best game of the year when he ran 24 times for 132 yards against the Bengals. He had 97 yards and a score against the Jets but when facing a stout defense, he has been far less effective. He only had 14 yards on 8 carries against Denver and 81 yards on 16 runs against the Colts. The Jaguars are using Taylor almost exclusively as a runner and he has had up to 37 carries in a game when the situation allows.

Fred Taylor gained a total of 110 yards with no score against the Steelers last season.

Wide Receivers: Jimmy Smith was held to only 43 yards on three catches last week and he's the first player to feel the production pinch when the Jaguars face a good defense. He is also the first player to get a bounce when they go against a soft secondary which is not the case this week. Reggie Williams is still only marginal as a #2 and is doing little to concern any cornerback. Williams makes a big show every time he catches the ball but so far that has never been more than five times in any game and he has yet to gain more than 54 yards. Ernest Willford had the touchdown last week but it was on his only catch of the game.

Jimmy Smith was held to only 52 yards in the game against Pittsburgh last year but Troy Edwards had 90 yards and one score.

Tight Ends: The Jaguars use three different tight ends and none of them are consistent enough to expect anything from week to week. George Wrighster had a touchdown last week but has only four catches on the year.

Match Against the Defense: Fred Taylor has looked great at times but faces a Steeler defense that has not allowed an opposing runner to gain more than 62 rushing yards - and that was Tomlinson playing in San Diego. Expect a sub-par game from Taylor with almost no chance of a score.

Leftwich faces a secondary that can cover Jimmy Smith and that takes the key player out of the equation for Jacksonville. No team has more than one passing score in a game against the Steelers this year - if that. Look for a sub-200 game from Leftwich who will have to produce numbers with receivers other than Smith, something he has yet to do this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
1 34-7 TEN 10 Nov 13 CLE
2 27-7 @HOU 11 Nov 20 @BAL
3 20-23 NE 12 Nov 28 @IND
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 CIN
5 24-22 @SDC 14 Dec 11 CHI
6 Oct 16 JAC 15 Dec 18 @MIN
7 Oct 23 @CIN 16 Dec 24 @CLE
8 Oct 31 BAL 17 Jan 1 DET
9 Nov 6 @GBP . MON SAT
PIT vs JAX Rush Catch Pass
QB Charlie Batch 10 0 170,1
RB Jerome Bettis 60,1 0 0
RB Willie Parker 50 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 20 0
WR Hines Ward 0 50 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 60,1 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Steelers come off a critical win on Monday night when they defeated the Chargers but they may have lost Roethlisberger in the process. With Bettis back running hard and the defense stepping up every week, even that would not matter in this game. The Steelers have a short week but are back at home and should take this game with a big defensive showing against a team that is too reliant on just two players - Taylor and Smith.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger suffered a hyper-extended knee last Monday with a possible bone bruise. His status remains unknown for this week but if he cannot play, Charlie Batch will likely get the starting nod. Tommy Maddox has a chance to play but at this early date, expect Batch to be the starter. Updates as warranted.

Roethlisberger had 221 yards and two scores against the Jaguars last year.

Running Backs: And now we know. Jerome Bettis returned to the game last Monday and had 17 carries for 54 yards and one touchdown while Willie Parker had only 10 carries for 26 yards. With Bettis in the lineup, the Steelers are relying on him once again in all short yardage situations and Parker has been relegated to "every other series" when there are more than a few yards for a first down. That makes Bettis the main carrier in any game against a good defense and Parker, as the speedier outside runner, a better option against soft defenses.

The Steelers ran for 80 yards against the Jaguars in 2004, with Bettis, Staley and Parker sharing the load.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward had six catches for 83 yards last week which gives him three straight games over 80 yards. He was held to no scores against the Chargers but had two each against the Patriots and Texans. Cedrick Wilson still drops more than he catches and never has more than two receptions per game while Antwaan Randle El consistently remains at 50 or more yards per game. The Steelers threw one pass to Quincy Morgan last week but he just dropped it.

Hines Ward had 80 yards and one score last year against Jacksonville while Antwaan Randle El had 71 yards.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller comes off a career best with four catches for 36 yards and one score. This is encouraging for a team that historically had not used the tight end position in passing situations for the last decade and Miller's role could increase as would be expected from a first round draft pick.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers at home should have nice success running against the Jaguars who have allowed big running games to most opponents this season. Look for the duo of Parker and Bettis to combine for at least 110 yards and Bettis should score once. The Jaguars are tough near the goal line but Bettis is best in the business with that final yard.

The passing here won't likely be high since the Steelers will control the game with rushing and defense and with Batch a likely starter, even less reason to throw more than necessary. Look for moderate output from Ward though he could score once.