Andy Dalton is thankful he doesn’t have to answer more questions about having never beaten the Steelers.
Of course, a one-game winning streak against Pittsburgh — the Bengals won 13-10 in Pittsburgh last December — doesn’t remove all the pressure from the quarterback’s shoulders.
Throw in the fact that this game will be played on Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium and the Steelers and Bengals are coming off losses in week one, and there are plenty of reasons for Dalton to feel the weight of Bengals nation on his shoulder.
“Anytime we play the Steelers, it’s a big game,” Dalton said. “For us to go into Pittsburgh and win last year when there was a lot on the line, that was big for us. Obviously, it’s a new year, but we know the type of games we play when we play the Steelers. They’re always tough games. We know the importance of playing these guys and how good they are.”
Dalton completed 24-of-41 passes for 278 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in that game last December. That was a big improvement over the first game against the Steelers last season when he completed 14-of-28 passes for 105 yards with one touchdown and one pick in a 24-17 loss.
That was the third straight game Dalton played against the Steelers with his completion rate at 50 percent or below. As a rookie in 2011, he completed 15-of-30 and then 11-of-24 passes in 24-17 and 35-7 losses.
The Steelers lost 16-9 last week to Tennesee, and their defense is battling injuries. Inside linebacker Larry Foote suffered a ruptured biceps in the opener. Knowing that, Dalton still expects a tough challenge.
“There’s not a whole lot of change,” he said. “They’re still doing a lot of the same stuff they did in previous years. That’s kind of how their defense has been. They just plug new guys in, guys they expect to play well. Unfortunately, they’ve had a couple of injuries and lost a couple of guys, but we still expect the same type of defense. They played well last week, and we’re going to get their best effort this week.”
The Steelers also suffered a big injury on offense. The loss of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who tore his ACL in the opener, will hurt, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Thursday he’s confident in Pouncey’s backup, Kelvin Beachum.
“It’s going good, “Roethlisberger said. “It’s good getting that extra work with him (in practice this week). He got thrown into a situation last week getting no practice at center. Our hat goes off to him for stepping up on the fly. Now at least we get some work. He’ll be a lot better.”