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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket

Sunday night

Prediction: PIT 24, CLE 13

Nothing like a matchup with the Browns to warm the heart of a Steeler fan. After all, the Browns have fallen the last seven times and the Steelers need to try out their new offense on a well known opponent. The Steelers return all the same skill players against this year but have a new coaching staff and scheme. The Browns have swapped out running backs but otherwise remain unchanged until that day when Romeo Crennel decides it is "Brady Time". Or gets fired, which ever comes first.

The Steelers swept the Browns last year 24-20 and 27-7.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @CLE   -4.5 37
2 BUF 16-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
3 SF 23-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
4 @ARI 30-Sep SUN 4:15 PM
5 SEA 7-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
6 BYE - - -
7 @DEN 21-Oct SUN 8:15 PM
8 @CIN 28-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
9 BAL 5-Nov MON 8:30 PM
10 CLE 11-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
11 @NYJ 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 MIA 26-Nov MON 8:30 PM
13 CIN 2-Dec SUN 8:15 PM
14 @NE 9-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
15 JAC 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 @STL 20-Dec THU 8:15 PM
17 @BAL 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
PIT at CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     260,2
RB Willie Parker 110,1 20  
TE Heath Miler   30  
WR Hines Ward   60,1  
WR Santonio Holmes   70,1  
WR Nate Washington   40  
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 3 XP 6 Pts
Pregame Notes: The nicety about installing a new offense after so many years under Bill Cowher is that the Steelers do not have to indoctrinate any new players really. All they have to do is hope that Roethlisberger's black cloud is finally gone and the rest just play as well as last year. This is a new era for the Steelers after so many years with Cowher, but at least the depth charts remain the same.

Quarterback: Okay, so Big Ben Roethlisberger did a face plant onto a windshield last year and then his body decided it was time to evict the appendix. The beleaguered quarterback fought a lot of adversity last year and while he had an obvious interception problem, he also managed career marks in yardage (3528) and touchdowns (18). Tossing a league-leading 23 interceptions sort of ruined a lot of drives (23 in fact), but he improved later in the year and only had six scores against four interceptions in the final five games and that included two against the Ravens.

The offense is planned to open up the passing game more this year and there is already the personnel there to accomplish that. Forget about the problems of last year, Roethlisberger is one of the more talented quarterbacks in the league entering his fourth seasons. Expect good things here this year.

Roethlisberger threw for 272 yard and two scores in Cleveland last year and later 225 yards and one touchdown at home against the Browns.

Running Backs: Despite the struggles with passing, Willie Parker took his second season as a starter and turned it into gold. He ran 337 times for 1494 yards - sixth best in the NFL last year. He also scored 13 times on the ground and added three more touchdowns via receptions to tie for third best in scoring among all running backs. What was off was that Parker would have monster games at home and then flop on the road but he even cured that by the end of the year with 130+ yards in Carolina and Cincinnati.

Parker is a very fast runner that can get the tough yards as well. The offense may be opening up, but there's no doubt that Parker will continue to get his production.

Parker gained only 46 yards on 17 carries in Cleveland last season but scored twice. At home he went wild with 32 carries for 223 yards and one score.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward turned in a mirror 975 yards last year as he did in 2005 but he fell to just six scores after scoring a career high 11 times the previous season. Some of that may have to so with his turning 31 this year but mostly it was because the Steelers finally abandoned the notion that Cedrick Wilson was a starter and started using heavy doses of second year player Santonio Holmes ( 49-824, 2 TD's) and Nate Washington ( 35-624, 4 TD's). Holmes is now the starter and entering his third season after initially being the first wideout drafted in 2005. Washington has stepped up and finally filled the void when Antwaan Randle El left. If this offense does open up and pass more, this unit can handle the work.

Ward suffered a broken nose this summer but is fine this week, Holmes had a hamstring tweak but should also be good to go.

Ward had 81 yards on seven catches on the road against the Browns in week 11 with no score and did not play in the week 14 matchup. Holmes scored once and gained 75 yards on the road and later had 81 yards at home against the Browns.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller's role in the new offense is still somewhat undefined but Miller has played just two years in the NFL and already has 11 touchdowns and has turned in around 400 yards both seasons.

Miller had 32 yards on the road in Cleveland last season but had no catches in the second meeting.

Match Against the Defense: The Browns were below average in most categories last year and did very little to upgrade their defense in the offseason. The Browns played the Steelers pretty tough in Cleveland during week 11 last year but were pelted in Pittsburgh only three weeks later. That first meeting marked the final game where Roethlisberger was still struggling.

Look for a nice effort here by Parker that should crest the 100 yard mark if only thanks to the number of carries. Roethlisberger gets to unveil the new passing game that the Browns have never seen. I like Pittsburgh to take this one with a couple of scores by Roethlisberger and decent not huge yardage because it won't be needed. Look for the wideouts to have a nice game here with Ward having a good chance to score.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 7 9 8 19 21 13
Preventing Fantasy Points CLE 9 21 15 17 22 31
rankings reflect as of week 17, 2006


Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Homefield: Cleveland Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 PIT   +4.5 37
2 CIN 16-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
3 @OAK 23-Sep SUN 4:05 PM
4 BAL 30-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
5 @NE 7-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
6 MIA 14-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
7 BYE - - -
8 @STL 28-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
9 SEA 4-Nov SUN 4:05 PM
10 @PIT 11-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
11 @BAL 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 HOU 25-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
13 @ARI 2-Dec SUN 4:05 PM
14 @NYJ 9-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
15 BUF 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 @CIN 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 SF 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
CLE vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Charlie Frye 20   190,1
RB Jamal Lewis 60    
TE Kellen Winslow   40  
WR Braylon Edwards   80,1  
WR Joe Jurevicius   40  
WR Josh Cribbs   20  
PK Phil Dawson 2 FG 1 XP 7 Pts

Pregame Notes: The Browns had a great draft in April (made easier with a 4-12 record last year) and picked up OT Joe Thomas and later moved back in the first round to grab Brady Quinn.. Those moves should pay off very well for years to come but unfortunately won't do much for this week when the Browns open up against the team that last beat them 27-7. The defense here remains average at best and the quarterback situation that persisted throughout the summer has returned to the same place it started - Charlie Frye.

Quarterback: After playing a waiting game on the starting quarterback this week, HC Romeo Crennel opted to just stick with Charlie Frye over Derek Anderson. Frye's lack of progress was central to the drafting of Brady Quinn and in 13 games last year, Frye only produced 2449 yards and ten scores against 17 interceptions. Brady Quinn looked near flawless playing against the scrubs from other teams in the preseason but the Browns are resisting the temptation to toss him into the fire quite yet. With any luck, Quinn can watch Frye play against PIT, CIN, OAK, BAL, NE and MIA and then take the job over in week eight. Chances are decent that the Browns will already be 0-6 by then and Crennel will need to look like he is trying something new anyway.

Frye was the starter at home against the Steelers and threw for 224 yards and no score. In Pittsburgh, Derek Anderson was the starter and had 276 yards and one touchdown.

Running Backs: Cleveland joins the ranks of teams that have realized that running backs from Denver turn back into pumpkins the moment when they last remove their Broncos jersey. In order to replace Reuben Droughns, the Browns opted to pretend it was 2003 once again and brought in Jamal Lewis from the Ravens. The same runner that has only averaged 3.5 yards per carry for the last two years playing for a team with better blockers. It seems, what's the word? ... "optimistic". Either that or ill-advised.

The Browns ran for 74 yards on 18 carries against the visiting Steelers last year but only had 14 total rushing yards in Pittsburgh. No running back scored in either game.

Wide Receivers: Braylon Edwards enters his third season and although he was returning from a knee injury his rookie season, he still managed to catch 60 passes for 879 yards and six scores. Edwards is so productive compared to the rest of the wideouts that it is a wonder that secondaries even bother with Joe Jurevicius or the slot player of the week. Edwards has elite talent which should be amply displayed but not until an equally talented quarterback (say, oh, Brady Quinn for example) in under center. Facing a daunting opening schedule won't be made any easier with the lack of talent around Edwards.

Edwards posted 137 yards on seven receptions when the Steelers came to town last year and had 86 yards in Pittsburgh with one score. Jurevicius only had one catch in that first game for 16 yards but then turned in 111 yards on seven catches in the second meeting.

Tight Ends: They waited for two years for Kellen Winslow to soldier up and be healthy enough to play and the wait was worth it. Winslow turned in a team high 89 catches for 875 yards and three scores in his first NFL "look I am playing" season. All he needs is to add a few more touchdowns to his yardage and he's in Gates/Gonzo country. Winslow was hampered in the offseason by his knee again but is expected to be just as good as last year if not better.

Winslow had four catches in both meetings with the Steelers last year, gaining just 36 and 19 yards and never scoring.

Match Against the Defense: Installing Charlie Frye back as the starter is just asking for a repeat of the last slaughter when these teams met. Expect Jamal Lewis to stall against one of the toughest rushing defenses in the league but Frye to connect with Edwards well enough to notch one touchdown. This offense has to get used to Jamal Lewis as a runner and cannot ignore that Frye just limits them.

Gaining Fantasy Points CLE 17 32 27 3 29 20
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 15 3 29 23 10 28

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