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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 23, 2005
Season Ticket
Thanksgiving Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
DEN at DAL CHI at TB* SF at TEN* MIA at OAK Mon 9 PM
Sun 1 PM CLE at MIN STL at HOU GB at PHI* PIT at IND
BAL at CIN NE at KC   NYG at SEA Times ET

Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Indianapolis 27

Have to admit this may be the best slate of Monday night games this year for as far back as I can recall. The undefeated Colts have their third Monday night game and probably just deserve to be there every week. Last week the Colts took down the Bengals in Cincinnati and this week they go against the other top dog in the AFC North. The Steelers were undefeated on the road this season until the fiasco in Baltimore last week but chances are they were looking forward to this week. That and using Tommy Maddox instead of Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3)
1 34-7 TEN 10 34-21 CLE
2 27-7 @HOU 11 13-16 @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 IND Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 210,2
RB Willie Parker 80 10 0
TE Heath Miller 0 50,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 60,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 40 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Steelers went 2-1 without Roethlisberger the last three weeks but he'll be welcomed back with open arms for this match-up. Pittsburgh lost Charlie Batch in the process but gained back a healthy Willie Parker. All hands need to be on deck for this Monday night game that will be tough enough without thinking forward to next week when the Steelers host the Bengals in what should be the deciding game for the AFC North.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger missed three games while mending from meniscus surgery on his knee. He returned to partial practice last week but wasn't ready to play yet. He is expected to be under center this week. In six starts this season, Roethlisberger has thrown two scores in all but one game though only once topping 230 yards.

Running Backs: Back to the future. Willie Parker returned to the lineup last week and had 18 carries for 59 yards while adding 22 yards and a score on two receptions. With Parker healthy, the Steelers are not using Staley anymore and Jerome Bettis only had two carries for no gain last week. Bettis was a touchdown machine last year but only has two scores for 2005.

Wide Receivers: No one could be happier to see Big Ben back than Hines Ward who has caught six of his seven scores from his preferred quarterback including two games with two touchdowns. Going against the Colts, Ward has to be involved heavily for the Steelers to be successful. Antwaan Randle El has almost disappeared with Roethlisberger out.

Tight Ends: Scratch the previous paragraph. Heath Miller is the one that should be dancing about the return of Big Ben. When Roethlisberger left after week eight, Miller had six touchdowns. The last three games have had no scores and only a total of seven catches for 48 yards that includes being blanked in week 10 with Maddox.

Match Against the Defense: The Colts defense has not allowed a runner to gain more than 88 yards as a visitor this season and only two rushing touchdowns have happened by opponents in Indianapolis. By the same token, every visitor has managed at least 76 yards so that range has been consistent and matches with what Parker has been doing. Expect about 70 to 80 rushing yards.

The Colts have also been very strong against visiting quarterbacks with only the Rams managing to throw for two scores - the other three visitors only combined for one passing score. Look for this to be a big game for the Steelers and for Big Ben to connect on those two scores that will favor Hines Ward in a moderate yardage game and also Heath Miller who should have one of his better outings this year while the secondary covers wideouts and the pass rush forces the shorter throws.

Indianapolis Colts (10-0)
1 24-7 @BAL 10 31-17 HOU
2 10-3 JAC 11 45-37 @CIN
3 13-6 CLE 12 Nov 28 PIT
4 31-10 @TEN 13 Dec 4 TEN
5 28-3 @SFO 14 Dec 11 @JAC
6 45-28 STL 15 Dec 18 SDC
7 38-20 @HOU 16 Dec 24 @SEA
8 Open Bye 17 Jan 1 ARI
9 40-21 @NE . MON SAT
IND vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 240,2
RB Edgerrin James 90,1 10 0
TE Dallas Clark 0 50,1 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 70 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 60 0
WR Brandon Stokley 0 40,1 0
PK Mike Vanderjagt 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Colts have been so good this season that the inevitable question is already being weighed - can they make it 16-0? This week, a trip to Jacksonville and a homestand against the Chargers are all that stands in the way. On paper, the Colts could do it but on the field that is a tall order. Last week showed just how powerful the offense can still be when they scored 35 first-half points. That potential dance with destiny gets played one week at a time and this is another Monday night game not to miss.

Quarterback: Sure, Peyton Manning had a slow start to the season. Since week four it has been pure, patented Peyton. He has thrown for 18 touchdowns in the last seven games and hit at or above 300 yards in each of the last three weeks. There is nothing wrong with this offense or Manning other than it's hard to prove that the Colts have flexed all their muscles yet.

Running Backs: Edgerrin James comes off his worst game since week one when the Bengals held him to only 89 rushing yards and 18 receiving yards. He still had two scores in the game and now 12 on the season. He has scored in each of the last eight games.

Wide Receivers: After scoring in each of the previous four games, Marvin Harrison only managed to gain 42 yards on five catches last week. He still already has eight scores on the year with two games producing two touchdowns. Reggie Wayne has been scoring in exactly every other game since week four when the passing engine roared to life and he comes off a nice 117 yard effort last week. While Harrison occasionally drops a sub-50 yard game, Wayne has been staying about that mark for the last six weeks.

Tight Ends: Dallas Clark had been surprisingly quiet this season until finally scoring his first touchdown of the year in week seven. He now has scored in three of the last four games and was the leading receiver last week with a career high 125 yards on six catches.

Match Against the Defense: This should be interesting. The worst that James has had in any game this year was 88 rushing yards. The best that any runner has managed against the Steelers has been 77 yards. Something's going to give and playing in Indianapolis, more likely it will be the Steelers. Expect a game that may not reach 100 yards but should end up close with one rushing score if Rhodes doesn't come in to take it.

This should be interesting Part II - The Steelers have never allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than one touchdown in any game this year. Manning has not had that few in five weeks and that was in San Francisco when the Colts did not care. The Steelers have only allowed three passing touchdowns to go to wideouts this season - Manning has done that in multiple games this year. Look for the two to meet more in the middle and Manning to throw for two scores and around 240 yards. Those scores could go almost anywhere but considering how much attention Harrison and Wayne will be getting, chances are good that the touchdowns end up with Clark and Stokley.