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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 16, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
DET at DAL NO at NE Sun 4 PM PIT at BAL* MIN at GB*
IND at CIN OAK at WAS SEA at SF* Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Pittsburgh 16, Baltimore 10

This is a replay of week eight when the Steeler barely nipped the Ravens 20-19 in Pittsburgh. Before expecting a shootout this week, consider that the Ravens have not scored a touchdown since the first quarter of that game while the Steelers have had 54 points in those two successive weeks that did not even had Roethlisberger available. The Steelers are undefeated on the road this season while the Ravens have not won in over a month.

Update: Though he is still listed as questionable on the injury report, Willie Parker has been named as the starting tailback this week against the Ravens. I have updated the projections to reflect this. Duce Staley will play a much more minor role if he even takes any snaps.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2)
1 34-7 TEN 10 34-21 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 27-13 @CIN 16 Dec 24 @CLE
8 20-19 BAL 17 Jan 1 DET
9 20-10 @GBP . MON SAT
PIT at BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Tommy Maddox 0 0 110
RB Jerome Bettis 40,1 10 0
RB Willie Parker 80 10 0
TE Heath Miller 0 30 0
WR Hines Ward 0 40 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 10 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 10 0
PK Jeff Reed 3 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: Life without Roethlisberger has resulted in two wins but that's partly to credit a schedule calling for the Packers and Browns. This game is no "gimmee" but could be overlooked for the big prize in week 12 - a trip to play in Indianapolis followed by a homestand against the Bengals. The rest of the year looks more like smooth sailing compared to the next three weeks.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger has missed two games due to surgery to remove part of a torn meniscus and while he may be back as early as this week, he has not been cleared yet to play. Practice should disclose how close he is to playing again and updates will be made if warranted. I will assume that the unsavory choice will be made - using Tommy Maddox again. Charlie Batch was very effective replacing Big Ben but broke his pinkie finger and will be out this week.

Roethlisberger threw for 177 yards and two scores against the Ravens in week eight.

Running Backs: Willie Parker sat out last week due to an ankle sprain and was unable to practice. He could return for this game but until he practices I will assume Duce Staley will take the start. Staley had 64 yards on 17 carries against the Browns and 76 yards and one score the previous week against the Packers. Jerome Bettis resumed his short yardage role and scored last week for the first time since week five and gained 28 yards on nine carries. Even Vernon Haynes got some action against Cleveland, and he had nine carries for 41 yards and a score as well. When Parker is added back into this mix, it could become even more confusing and harder to rely on.

Parker only gained 63 yards against Baltimore earlier this year.

Wide Receivers: A big home game with a franchise receptions hanging in the balance, it was no surprise that Hines Ward was thrown 12 passes last week and he caught eight for 124 yards and one score. As always, the other wideouts were relatively meaningless other than Antwaan Randle El throwing the touchdown to Ward. The Steelers are also have used Randle El on a couple of runs in each of the last two games. The team is so focused on rushing even the wideouts have to take a handoff.

Hines Ward had eight catches for 75 yards against the Ravens in week eight.

Tight Ends: Perhaps the biggest shock of last week was that Heath Miller had only one pass and no catches. He had scored in five of six games and since Roethlisberger went out, he has only two catches for 11 yards. Without Big Ben, Miller is just another blocker.

Heath Miller had only three catches for 18 yards against the Ravens this year, but two went for touchdowns.

Match Against the Defense: Since safety Ed Reed and MLB Ray Lewis is expected to miss this week, consider the running lanes open for business. Add in Maddox who no one wants to throw much and there will be an even greater emphasis on rushing. Consider that the Ravens offense has lost all punch and cannot score and the Steelers may run every play. Opponents are running well on them now and Pittsburgh's 92 rushing yards a few weeks ago will almost surely be surpassed.

Maddox will throw some but not much and no more than the situation demands. Look for a low passing game here if Roethlisberger sits out that will drain the value out of even Hines Ward. All that Ward did last week was when Batch was under the center. He's gone now and so is the desire to throw.

Baltimore Ravens (2-7)
1 7-24 IND 10 3-30 @JAC
2 10-25 @TEN 11 Nov 20 PIT
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 @CIN
4 13-3 NYJ 13 Dec 4 HOU
5 17-35 @DET 14 Dec 11 @DEN
6 16-3 CLE 15 Dec 19 GBP
7 6-10 @CHI 16 Dec 25 MIN
8 19-20 @PIT 17 Jan 1 @CLE
9 9-21 CIN . . MON
BAL vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Boller 10 0 170,1
RB Jamal Lewis 50 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 60,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 60 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 20 0
WR Randy Hymes 0 20 0
PK Matt Stover 1 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Ravens fondly remember the week eight game against the Steelers not because they lost by only one point, but because they have not scored a touchdown in the two games since. Boller is back and looking as bad as ever and Jamal Lewis has downshifted so much this season he is almost in reverse. Add in a defense without their two main stars in Reed and Lewis and it is not surprising that the last two games have had the Ravens outscored 12 to 51 points.

Quarterback: Okay, Kyle. We waited for that? In is first game since week one, Kyle Boller resumed the starting role and managed to throw for only 142 yards and three interceptions against the Bengals. Yep. He is back to his old self again. It's too early to contemplate a reverse back to Anthony Wright and it wasn't like he was winning games anyway.

Wright threw for 233 yards and one score in Pittsburgh this year.

Running Backs: Jamal Lewis comes off a thrilling 14 carries for 44 yards last week, which followed games of 49, 61, 34, 59.... By now he's earned the nickname of "The Tractor". He's slow, you know what direction he is going in and he's even safe for kids to ride. It is almost unimaginable that this is the back that crossed the 2000 yard threshold.

Lewis only gained 61 yards against the Steelers earlier this year. It was actually one of his better games.

Wide Receivers: Boller is back and let's check the damage. Derrick Mason - 63 yards on four catches. Still hitting his average. Mark Clayton - one catch for nine yards. Randy Hymes - three passes, no catches. Yep - checks out just like week one. Derrick Mason had 83 yards versus the Steelers back in week eight. So far, the Ravens have managed to make it nine games into the season with only one touchdown pass to any wideout.

Tight Ends: With Boller back, Todd Heap has his buddy again. Boller threw eight times to Heap who caught five for 58 yards against the Bengals. Heap only had 31 yards in the game against the Steelers in week eight.

Match Against the Defense: No reason to expect for Jamal Lewis to recall what his job description actually says. Look for "Slow Jam" Lewis to have lackluster game #10 this week.

Boller could be better than last week, but he could get even worse. The Steelers have never allowed more than one passing score to any opponent this season and Anthony Wright only managed 233 yards in a game that had most things go right early. Look for a sub-200 game from Boller but a chance for one score to Heap because they are at home and the touchdown curse must lift eventually.