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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
October 19, 2005
Season Ticket
FRI 7 PM Sun 1 PM SF at WAS* Sun 4 PM Sun 4 PM
KC at MIA* NO at STL Sun 4 PM DEN at NYG TEN at ARI*
Sun 1 PM PIT at CIN* DAL at SEA* On Bye: Mon 9 PM
GB at MIN* IND at HOU BUF at OAK CAR, TB Updated*

Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Cincinnati 24

This is the battle for the AFC North and the Bengals already have a two game lead over the 3-2 Steelers. One loss here and Pittsburgh can probably start thinking about a wildcard. Roethlisberger and possibly Ward will return this week and with them the chance that a Steeler pass is caught by a Steeler player.

The Steelers swept the Bengals 14-19 and 28-17 last season.

Update: Roethlisberger is showing no after-effects of his knee injury and will be playing as expected. Both Hines Ward (hamstring) and Antwaan Randle El (foot) are listed as questionable and have been held out of practices on Wednesday and Thursdays. I have lowered the passing numbers slightly because while Big Ben is healthy again, his wideouts have not been practicing with him and could be a problem in the game. At this time, the expectation is that both will play but have some limitation.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still listed as questionable this week but he has returned to practice. I am leaving him in the projections but realize same as the last two weeks - he is not completely a safe start until he is made active for the game.

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
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 17-23 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 at CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 200,1
RB Jerome Bettis 30,1 0 0
RB Willie Parker 70 10 0
TE Heath Miller 0 40 0
WR Hines Ward 0 50 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 40 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 50,1 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Steelers now have two losses and both came in home games. Big Ben was out last week and Tommy Maddox showed exactly why he lost the job in the first place. Hines Ward was also out and yet the Steelers only lost thanks to those three interceptions thrown by Maddox - the final one being returned for the overtime winning score.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger missed last week - painfully so - but is expected back after healing up his hyperextended knee and bone bruise. He contended that he could have played last week and in retrospect, maybe they should have let him. Roethlisberger has not only thrown at least one touchdown in every game, he has yet to throw an interception.

Roethlisberger only threw for 174 and 138 yards against the Bengals last year with one score in each game.

Running Backs: Although Jerome Bettis was the primary back in week five, the Steelers opted to only use him on four runs (4 yards) and gave WIllie Parker 21 carries that gained 55 yards against the Jaguars. Now that Staley has been more or less ruled out for the rest of the year, Parker and Bettis will be pairing up each week with the short work going to Bettis and the yardage needs tending towards Parker. If Bettis does get hot in a game, he won't be pulled just to satisfy a ratio though.

Staley gained 123 yards in the early game against the Bengals last year and Bettis later had 129 yards in Cincinnati.

Wide Receivers: Forget what happened last week with Roethlisberger and Hines Ward out. Both were likely saved for this game that will decide what sort of future the team will have this season. Ward was a late decision to stay inactive due to the hamstring strain that kept him out of practice. Since his starting status was not determined until late in the week, I am projecting that he will return this week and be only slightly limited. The passing game outside of Ward is not pretty and Cedric Wilson and Antwaan Randle El are not cut out for a #1 role. Wilson in particular has contributed little since week two and Randle El has hung around 50 yards a game for several weeks now. Quincy Morgan had two catches last week but he also dropped a pass that could have been a nice gainer.

Ward only had games of 15 and 48 yards against the Bengals last year.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller did step up against the Jaguars and now has scored in each of the last two games including four catches in each for up to 72 yards. The promising rookie is being integrated into the passing scheme with nice results.

Match Against the Defense: The Bengals rushing defense has been strong this year though Taylor, Thomas Jones and even Chris Brown have had some success against them. There is still a lingering question as to how Parker and Bettis will be used since in two games they have swapped roles, but best chance is that Parker gets some nice yardage here with Bettis getting close enough for one score.

Roethlisberger faces an improved secondary from last year that has only allowed four passing scores this season. Big Ben is always good for one score but that second one will be harder to find this week. Hines Ward has the best matchup and already is the only wideout that really matters. As long as he is healthy, he should see some moderate yardage but not a great chance to score since only two wideouts have managed to cross the goal line against the Bengals this year and both of them - Frisman Jackson and Ernest Willford - did so as a slot receiver like Randle El. Heath Miller could also be the one catching the touchdown but after two straight weeks with scores, he'll be getting attention.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-1)
1 27-13 @CLE 10 Open Bye
2 37-8 MIN 11 Nov 20 IND
3 24-7 @CHI 12 Nov 27 BAL
4 16-10 HOU 13 Dec 4 @PIT
5 20-23 @JAC 14 Dec 11 CLE
6 31-23 @TEN 15 Dec 18 @DET
7 Oct 23 PIT 16 Dec 24 BUF
8 Oct 30 GBP 17 Jan 1 @KCC
9 Nov 6 @BAL . . SAT
CIN vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 0 0 220,2
RB Rudi Johnson 80,1 0 0
RB Chris Perry 30 20,1 0
TE Matt Schobel 0 10 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 60,1 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 70 0
WR Chris Henry 0 40 0
PK Shayne Graham 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Bengals were undefeated until week five in Jacksonville but they picked it back up with their third road win in four trips away from Cincy. That road heavy schedule at first is about to reverse and give the Bengals four home games with only one trip to Baltimore sandwiched in week nine. The Bengals have been a big surprise this season and a win here can put the stamp of legitimacy on what they've been able to do this season on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer has 13 touchdowns on the season to lead the NFL and his 1573 yards are fourth best. He has thrown scores in every game and only once failed to get at least two touchdowns. Add in that he has not thrown an interception in the last four games and there is no surprise that the Bengals have cruised to the second best record in the NFL.

In both games against the Steelers last year, Palmer only threw for around 165 yards with one or two touchdowns.

Running Backs: Rudi Johnson has been rock solid this season, gaining at least 76 yards in every game but after starting the first three games with 22 or more carries each week, he now has settled down to around 18 carries a game. Those extra five or six carries now go to Chris Perry who has looked very sharp in relief of Johnson. Perry has gained 83 yards on only 13 carries over the last two games and had an astounding nine catches against the Titans last week for 45 yards and one score. Rudi Johnson remains the primary back here, but Perry has definitely created a role for himself.

Johnson ran for a surprising 123 yards and one score in Pittsburgh last year but was held to only 62 yards and one score in the home meeting.

Wide Receivers: Chad Johnson now has five touchdowns in the last five games and has two efforts that have exceeded 130 yards this season. His list has yet to have a name crossed off as being able to cover him. T.J. Houshmandzadeh again was inactive last week due to his bruised hand despite, for the second week in a row, claiming he was going to play only to be a game time inactive. Assumedly he will play this week and I am projecting for him but will update if it appears he will still be a problem. Chris Henry had a big 85 yard, one touchdown game replacing him in week five but only managed one catch for five yards against the Titans. This offense works best with the speedy Henry in the slot and Houshmandzadeh as the flanker.

Chad Johnson had games of 54 and 80 yards against the Steelers last year, with one score while at home. The #2 spot was no more successful, gaining only 53 and later 47 yards by either Houshmandzadeh and Kelley Washington.

Tight Ends: No fantasy relevance from one catch per week.

Match Against the Defense: This will be a big test for the Bengals that they have been waiting to face. The Steelers have not allowed a rusher to top 77 yards this season and Johnson doesn't quite get the amount of carries to get there anyway. Expect an average game from Johnson that could end up even lower than normal if Perry has any increased use.

Palmer goes against a secondary that has only allowed four scores this season and only one went to a wideout - Matt Jones. Little doubt that Chad Johnson commands a great following when he goes out for passes this week which is always true but in this case - the Steelers will have the personnel to put that check list in jeopardy of getting a "yes" tick for CB Deshea Townsend because he is going to be getting a lot of help this week. Less so if Houshmandzadeh can play and the Bengals may have been intentionally saving Houshmandzadeh to ensure he is healthy this week. This will be a great test for this offense that they have been looking forward to meeting. There will be one passing score here and possibly two but outside of Johnson, the recipient could come from anywhere.