When the Bengals and Steelers face off this Sunday, the game will largely be determined by the play of their two star quarterbacks.
Andy Dalton isn't exactly someone who you would have called a star before this season, but he's taken his game to another level to the point he was just named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month.
Ben Roethlisberger is no slouch when it comes to awards though. Three Pro Bowls, three Super Bowl berths and two Lombardi Trophies is all he needs to remind everyone he's a force to be reckoned with. When it comes to the Bengals, his numbers have been solid, but not as good as his entire career would suggest.
In 22 career games against the Bengals, Roethlisberger has completed 427 of 675 passes (63.26 percent) for 5,051 yards and 29 touchdowns vs 21 interceptions. He's also rushed 59 times for 127 yards and three scores. All of this has helped him go 16-6 against the Bengals, but only 7-4 in the friendly confines of Heinz Field. However, Ben has won five of his last six home starts against the Bengals, including a 3-1 mark against Dalton.
Speaking of, Dalton has posted rather unfavorable numbers against the Steelers. He's completed 162 of 279 passes (58.1 percent) for 1,744 yards with 11 touchdowns vs seven interceptions. He's also ran 17 times for 65 yards and one score. This has led to a 2-6 record against the Steelers. It is worth noting though that Dalton has completed 98 of 156 passes (63 percent) for 1,056 yards and seven touchdowns vs two interceptions in his last four games vs the Steelers. Three of those games saw Dalton not even throw an interception.
In other words, Dalton has been as good against the Steelers in recent years as Ben has against the Bengals in his career. Dalton has also posted an 80-plus passer rating in his last four games against the Steelers after not hitting that mark in his first four matchups with Pittsburgh.
But it's Big Ben who's played really well in the most recent matchups. In his last three games against the Bengals, Roethlisberger has completed 69 of 102 passes (68 percent) for 858 yards with six scores vs two interceptions. He also posted a 95-plus passer rating in all three games.
The good news for the Bengals is that Roethlisberger should be a little rusty after missing the past four games with a sprained MCL and bone bruise in his knee. In the previous six times that Roethlisberger has returned after missing games due to injury, the Steelers are 2-4 in his first games back.
However well he plays this week, Dalton must play better than Roethlisberger for the Bengals to win. The quarterback who has had the higher passer rating in the last eight matchups between the teams has won seven times. The only loss came after Dalton posted a 128.8 rating at home in Cincinnati against Pittsburgh last year, Roethlisberger posted a 128.5 rating in the game.
During both of the Bengals' losses against Pittsburgh last year, Dalton didn't have all of his weapons at his disposal. Whereas Roethlisberger had Martavis Bryant, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, Dalton was without Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones. Those two have combined for 19 touchdowns in their last 16 games together. A.J. Green was also knocked out of the second matchup between the two teams, and as a result missed the playoffs, too.
Both Roethlisberger and Dalton will have all of their weapons playing this Sunday; this will be a fun duel to watch unfold.