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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

Prediction: PIT 24, CLE 10

Early Thursday Update: I am changing the projections for this game since the weather is not improving and the forecast calls for 19 degree weather with snow showers and most importantly, 26 mph wind. I am decreasing the passing numbers. Cold weather itself is not that detrimental to throwing the ball but the wind could be a problem but at least will be running mostly up and down the stadium and not across it.

The Steelers are now on a four game losing streak and at 6-6 still have a shot at the playoffs - but barely. And their 2-4 road record does not inspire confidence. This week is only the Browns though who are on their own seven game losing streak and are actually 0-5 at home. The Steelers won 27-14 when they hosted the Browns in week six. This is the Thursday night game and while it is a short week both teams know each other well.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 TEN 13-10 -5 37
2 @CHI 14-17 -3 37.5
3 @CIN 20-23 -4.5 37
4 SD 38-28 -6.5 43
5 @DET 28-20 -10.5 44
6 CLE 27-14 -14 38
7 MIN 27-17 -6 46.5
8 BYE - - -
9 @DEN 28-10 -3 39
10 CIN 12-18 -7 41
11 @KC 24-27 -10.5 39.5
12 @BAL 17-20 +6 20
13 OAK 24-27 +14.5 37
14 @CLE - -10 36
15 GB - - -
16 BAL - - -
17 @MIA - - -
PIT at CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     220,1
RB R. Mendenhall 90,1 20  
TE Heath Miller   40  
WR Limas Sweed   20  
WR Santonio Holmes   60,1  
WR Mike Wallace   50  
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Steelers defense has been the main culprit in the struggles this year and could go into this game without the starting cornerbacks or Troy Polamalu since it is a short week and injuries have weakened the secondary. What was traditionally one of the top pass defenses now ranks only as average and the absence of Polamalu has knocked the wind from the sails. As a fantasy defense, the Steelers are one of the worst. The final four weeks at least have this easier road game followed by home games against the Packers and Ravens - no gimmees but games they could reasonably win. The season finale in Miami will be yet another tough venue.

I like a special teams score in this game.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger has passed for three scores in three games this year - each of the last three road trips. He's been good for multiple scores almost every week while also throwing at least one interception in almost every game. Roethlisberger passed for 417 yards and two scores in the previous meeting with the Browns.

The pasting that Big Ben laid on the Browns wasn't even the biggest game they have given up this year. Problem this week is that Hines Ward seems unlikely to play which will be a factor but no reason to avoid Roethlisberger against one of the weakest defenses in the league.

Running Backs: Rashard Mendenhall missed Steelers practice this week with a sore ankle but it is not expected to keep him out for Thursday night. He is coming off his first 100 yard effort since week nine and his first rushing score since back in week six. He has only scored five rushing touchdowns this year but remained a solid part of the offense every game. Mendenhall ran for 62 yards on 17 carries against the Browns back in week six and had one score - his last one until last Sunday.

The Browns are one of the weakest defenses in the league at stopping running backs and Mendenhall has already scored against them. But he only totaled 67 rushing yards in the home game and now hits the road. Look for one rushing score here and decent yardage but a monster game has not been on tap for Mendenhall for a long time and he won't be 100% this week because of his ankle.

Wide Receivers: There is a good chance that Hines Ward misses this week after pulling a hamstring at the end of the Oakland game. He is considered "very questionable" to play and opened the week by sitting out of practice. If he cannot play, Mike Wallace would move up to take his place. Ward is likely to be a game time decision but if he cannot go it would make Wallace much more attractive as a fantasy start. Wallace had a hot streak during midseason but has been very quiet for the last three games.

Santonio Holmes has been much hotter in recent weeks with a score in the last two games and a season best 149 yards against the Raiders. Should Ward miss the game, it would also have a positive effect on Holmes who already has been very solid for more than a month. Holmes had five catches for 104 yards against the Browns in the last meeting while Ward turned in a season best 159 yards on eight catches with a score. This is a good place to start your Steeler receivers and a chance for Wallace to surprise. The Browns at home have been much better against the pass though and no wideout has produced more than 84 yards there so temper your expectations for yardage.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller has varied greatly from week to week but has been generally unproductive in the last month with only one of the last six games having more than 38 yards. Miller had one of his best efforts of the year when he faced the Browns in week six and had five receptions for 80 yards and a score. Look for him to have a better game this week as well with Hines Ward absence needing to be compensated.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 7 26 5 15 15 9
Preventing Fantasy Points CLE 25 31 8 26 29 25

Cleveland Browns (1-11)
Homefield: Cleveland Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 MIN 20-34 +3.5 40
2 @DEN 6-27 +3 37
3 @BAL 3-34 +13 38.5
4 CIN 20-23 +5.5 38
5 @BUF 6-3 +6 40
6 @PIT 14-27 +14 38
7 GB 3-31 +9.5 41.5
8 @CHI 6-30 +11.5 39.5
9 BYE - - -
10 BAL 0-16 +11 39
11 @DET 37-38 +3.5 37.5
12 @CIN 7-16 +12 39.5
13 SD 23-30 +13.5 42.5
14 PIT - +10 36
15 @KC - - -
16 OAK - - -
17 JAC - - -
CLE vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Brady Quinn     160,1
RB Jerome Harrison 40 30,1  
WR M. Massaquoi   50  
WR Josh Cribs 30 20  
WR Chansi Stuckey   20  
PK Phil Dawson 1 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Browns cruise along being somewhat competitive in games where the opponent plays down to their level but never good enough to win . The remaining schedule has three home games left to play but nothing so far has suggested that the Browns are up to the task other than against the Raiders in week 16 and even that looks worse in recent weeks. The only positives in this offense has been Brady Quinn rebuilding his reputation and Mohamed Massaquoi enjoying a marginally successful rookie year.

Quarterback: Brady Quinn has been an all or nothing quarterback since resuming the starting role in week 10. He has two games with no scores and around 100 passing yards. And he has two games with at least 270 yards and three or four touchdowns. He has also gone for four games without throwing an interception. With almost no shred of a rushing game, the Browns are forced to throw and Quinn now has two impressive showings.

Derek Anderson was the starter in week six when he passed for 122 yards and a score against the Steelers.

The Steelers have injuries in the secondary and are reshuffling the players trying to get a better mixture because they have allowed a total six passing scores and at least 250 yards per game to the last three opponents. Quinn has been better lately and it was the Chargers that he had success against last week. But he's too unreliable so far to consider as a fantasy start this week and the Steelers are banged up but need a win desperately. I am projecting for decent yardage and two scores but that is a risk to expect. These are not the same Steelers though.

Running Backs: Chris Jennings never made it past theory as a starter since the Browns leaned more heavily on Jerome Harrison and were delighted to see him blocking well - one of his big failings in the past. Harrison ran for only 35 yards on ten carries but had 62 yards on seven receptions and scored twice as a receiver against the Chargers. Jennings will continue to figure in but now Jerome Harrison is the primary back. That may not mean much this week but games against the Chiefs and Raiders could make Harrison a nice grab from the waiver wire.

The Browns only rushed for 47 yards on 16 carries against the Steelers in the previous meeting. No reason to expect much more since they are still outstanding against the run but Harrison may tack on enough catches to make him have marginal fantasy value.

Wide Receivers: Brian Robiskie - AKA "that other rookie guy, what's-his-name" - suddenly showed up with four catches for 69 yards last Sunday after failing to catch a pass since week six. But he injured his foot and may not play in this short week. Mohamed Massaquoi has been only marginally productive with most games less than 30 yards but he has scored in two of the last three weeks. Joshua Cribs still does more as a runner than a receiver and that is not saying much. Chansi Stuckey produces three or four catches per week. No receiver here is that impressive or productive.

Massaquoi had a surprising 83 yards on five catches in the last meeting with the Steelers.

I am crediting Stuckey with a score only because I like one wideout to have a touchdown and the Steelers typically only allow non - #1 receivers to score. There are no wideouts here reliable enough to warrant fantasy consideration.

Tight Ends: No fantasy value

Gaining Fantasy Points CLE 30 32 28 28 31 27
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 11 2 26 7 10 31

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