I'm experimenting with a new series with quick perspectives throughout the day called hot reads. They are brief reports and conversation starters throughout the day ranging from self-generated perspectives, or oddball things we find.
Andy Dalton's history against the Pittsburgh Steelers has been documented over the course of his young career, but largely based on the greater team-wide spectrum that Cincinnati has been unable to beat better teams. When Cincinnati finally emerged late last year by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers to earn a postseason berth, those labels were threatened. It was the first win against the Steelers or Ravens (in games that mattered), so the momentum was established. Whether it's carried over Monday night is debatable, but on paper it should.
With Dalton under center, the Bengals have never scored more than 17 points in a game against Pittsburgh and their lone win was a significantly-control game by Cincinnati's defense. In four meetings against the Steelers, Dalton has completed 52 percent of his passes, while averaging 172 yards passing with a career 62.7 passer rating (four touchdowns, five interceptions).
Yet, save for a 28-point loss to the Steelers in '11, the Bengals have kept their games against Pittsburgh close. Prior to the team's breakthrough win last year, the Bengals and Steelers were tied heading into the fourth quarter during their Sunday Night meeting on Oct. 21, 2012. During an early November meeting in 2011, the Steelers won by a single possession.
Dalton showed remarkable improvement over time when it mattered the most, generating 278 yards passing while completing 58.54 percent of his passes (his highest against the Steelers). And it was in that game that Dalton completed a 15-yard throw to A.J. Green that set up Josh Brown's game-winning field goal that gave Cincinnati their postseason berth. Arguably his greatest throw as a professional to date.
For all of the rhetoric about Dalton's growth in year number three consuming offseason discussions, a convincing win against the Steelers would go a long way to bolster an improved image. On the other hand, a loss, based on the Steelers struggles, injuries and the game being played at Paul Brown Stadium, could invite significant antagonism.