NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals gives instructions to his team during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on November 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Bengals won 24-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has been sacked less times that about 75 percent of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. He's only been sacked 12 times and only eight quarterback have been sacked less times and of those eight, only three have started every game this season.
Obviously, this is a statistic that needs to be celebrated. When a rookie quarterback gets pressured, even one that seems as calm and cool as Andy Dalton is, they tend to make poor decisions. Only being sacked 12 times is a testament to the offensive line's play so far this season.
Or is it?
I don't mean to take anything away from the Bengals offensive line because, even though they've had bad games, they've been pretty good so far this season. However, I would like to know how good they've been at preventing sacks compared to how good Dalton's been at making quick decisions and getting the ball out of his hands before the defense can get to him.
At the tackle positions, Whitworth has a score of 6.5 while Andre Smith has a score of -5.0. Whitworth's pass blocking score is 8.5 and Smith's is 2.5.
At the guard positions, both Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams have negative scores. Livings' score is -12.6 overall and Williams' score is -1.2 overall. In pass protection, Livings' score is -2.5 and Williams' is -0.2.
Kyle Cook, the team's center, has a score of 2.8 with a pass protection score of -0.4.
You would think that Dalton's sack numbers might be higher when three of his five offensive linemen have negative scores in pass blocking, but that's not the case because Dalton has done an excellent job at finding the open man quickly and getting the ball out of his hands before the defense has a chance to get to him.
Obviously, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden deserves some credit too. He's done a good job at calling plays that allow Dalton to get rid of the ball quickly instead of ones that make him hold on to the ball for extended periods of time.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the third-ranked defense in the NFL and sacked opposing quarterbacks 23 times. Hopefully Dalton, Gruden and the offensive line can keep the Steelers pass rush at bay throughout the game but Dalton will need to continue to make quick decisions and Gruden may call more three-step drop pass plays than usual to keep his quarterback safe.
This will be a big test for the Bengals offensive line and for Dalton when it comes to keeping the defensive pressure at bay.