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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 21, 2005
Season Ticket
Sat 1 PM Sat 1 PM Sat 1 PM Sat 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
BUF at CIN NYG at WAS TEN at MIA* IND at SEA* Mon 9 PM
DET at NO* SD at KC* CHI at GB Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Cleveland 7

The Steelers won 34-21 when the Browns visited in week 10. The Steelers need a win here to keep their wildcard hopes alive and are playing well but the Browns have a knack for surprising in just their first season under HC Romeo Crennel.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)
1 34-7 TEN 10 34-21 CLE
2 27-7 @HOU 11 13-16 @BAL
3 20-23 NE 12 7-26 @IND
4 Open Bye 13 31-38 CIN
5 24-22 @SDC 14 21-9 CHI
6 17-23 JAC 15 18-3 @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 CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 180,1
RB Jerome Bettis 20,1 0 0
RB Willie Parker 70 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 20 0
WR Hines Ward 0 70,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 30 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Steelers come off two big defensive wins that prevented both Chicago and Minnesota from scoring a touchdown. The Steeler offense has not been explosive but it hasn't needed to be. With only a home game against the Lions remaining after this week, a win here is a must win that will require more effort than it did six weeks ago in PIttsburgh.

Quarterback: In the previous meeting, both Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox played and combined for 172 passing yards and one touchdown rushed in by Batch. Ben Roethlisberger has been playing for the last four games and should be better than anything that included Tommy Maddox.

Running Backs: The Steelers used Jerome Bettis (9-28, 1 TD), Verron Haynes (9-41, 1 TD) and Duce Staley (17-64) against the Browns in week 10 when Parker was out injured. Willie Parker is healthy now and has been turning in 70 to 80 yards a week for the last three games though he has not scored since back in week seven - that end zone thing is for The Bus.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward had eight catches for 124 yards and one score in the previous game against the Browns but he's been pretty quiet in the last few weeks with only 38 yards over the last two games. But Ward has scored four times in the last four games and remains the only wideout that Roethlisberger trusts in the endzone.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller comes off a two catch, 58 yard game against the Vikings but he had no catches the previous week. Miller's role varying significantly from week to week and he was held to no catches against the Browns this year though he only had one pass thrown to him.

Match Against the Defense: The Browns rushing defense has been good this season and since the Steelers have been splitting duties between Parker and Bettis, expect only moderate rushing yards here with a chance for one touchdown by Bettis but unlikely anything more than that.

Roethlisberger faces a secondary that is normally about average but capable of turning in a good effort. Look for only moderate yardage here by Big Ben and just one score that, of course, heavily favors Ward. The Browns have been pretty solid against tight ends, so Miller won't likely have more than one or two catches.

Cleveland Browns (5-9)
1 13-27 CIN 10 21-34 @PIT
2 26-24 @GBP 11 22-0 MIA
3 6-13 @IND 12 12-24 @MIN
4 Open Bye 13 14-20 JAC
5 20-10 CHI 14 20-23 @CIN
6 3-16 @BAL 15 9-7 @OAK
7 10-13 DET 16 Dec 24 PIT
8 16-19 @HOU 17 Jan 1 BAL
9 20-14 TEN . . SAT
CLE vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Charlie Frye 0 0 160.1
RB Reuben Droughns 50 20 0
TE Steve Heiden 0 20 0
WR Antonio Bryant 0 60,1 0
WR Frisman Jackson 0 20 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 30 0
PK Phil Dawson 0 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: Cleveland may only be 5-9 but for a team with a new head coach and a rebuilding program, the early results are encouraging for next year. The new defense has already held seven opponents to 14 points or less and recorded their first shutout. The offense is struggling more now with Braylon Edwards gone and Charlie Frye learning the ropes but the potential is there for next year seeing a nice improvement.

Quarterback: Charlie Frye continues to improve in a slow but positive direction. He scored twice in his first two starts and last week had his first scoreless game. But he has been around a 65% completion percentage in every game as a starter and only thrown two interceptions against three touchdowns - nice start for a rookie that begins his career against Jacksonville, at Cincinnati and at Oakland.

Dilfer threw for 253 yards and one score against the Steelers this year.

Running Backs: Rueben Droughns has been declining in yardage as the season progresses, especially since Frye started playing. Droughns has not topped 88 yards with Frye there and he has not scored for the last month. One new development - Frye hit him on five passes for 31 yards last week.

Droughns ran for 56 yards and one score in Pittsburgh this year. It was one of only two scores all year.

Wide Receivers: While Dennis Northcutt has been languishing around 25 yards a week, Antonio Bryant has not slipped at all with Frye at the helm. In Oakland last week, Bryant had five catches for 86 yards for his second best game of the year. Frisman Jackson rarely turns in more than 20 yards in a game and now the coaching staff is trying out other receivers like the rookie Josh Cribbs who had the first catch of his career.

Bryant had five catches for 82 yards and one score in Pittsburgh while Braylon Edwards turned two catches into 64 yards.

Tight Ends: Steve Heiden scored in week 14 but only had two catches for eight yards last week. The tight ends are used too rarely for consideration here.

Match Against the Defense: The last meeting between these teams had the Steelers using Maddox and Batch and with Roethlisberger, they should manage to control the tempo of the game better and fall back to relying on their defense to win the game. That means Droughns is unlikely to have anything more than some moderate yardage in this game and almost no chance of a score.

Frye is developing well but the Steelers never allow more than one passing score to less than Manning or Palmer, so look for one touchdown here to be the high side of what Frye can do and only moderate yardage. That score would favor Bryant or Heiden the most.