He’s been called many things but one thing Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton cannot claim as a moniker when playing the Pittsburgh Steelers is a “success.” Arguably the hottest quarterback in the NFL, Dalton comes to the Steel City having just been named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Month. He has the Bengals at 6-0 and he leads the NFL’s third-best offense.
While Dalton’s playoff struggles are easily topic number one when it comes to his negatives, the fact that he has struggled against the rival Steelers has to rank right up there too for the “Red Rifle.”
Since he entered the league in 2011, Dalton is just 2-6 against Pittsburgh. His two wins came on the road in Pittsburgh in 2012 and at home in Cincinnati in 2013. In those two wins, he threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions. His completion percentage in those games was just 57% as well.
In Dalton’s six losses to the Steelers he has thrown 10 touchdown passes and five interceptions and his completion percentage in those losses is just as it was in those two wins, 57%. What should alarm Steelers’ fans a bit though is that in both losses last year, Dalton’s completion percentage jumped significantly.
If you take out last season’s two games where he had completion percentages of 72 and 71, then his other four losses to the Steelers reveal an average completion percentage of just under 51%. Where did the significant jump come from?
I would say the increase comes from two places, the addition of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and more weapons on offense. So far in 2015, Dalton is completing 67% of his passes and has 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. While the completion percentage is down a bit compared to those two losses to the Steelers in 2014, that’s still a very acceptable percentage for an NFL quarterback.
One reason the completion percentage is down a bit is that he has increased his yards per attempt. For his career, he’s averaged about seven yards per attempt but this season that’s grown to 10 yards per throw. Longer throws mean greater chances of incompletions but they also mean bigger plays as well.
One area where the Steelers have done a solid job in terms of defending against Dalton is with pressure. In eight career games, the Steelers have sacked him 13 times including six times during a 13-10 loss to the Bengals in 2012. I have to imagine Keith Butler will dial up several new looks and different blitz packages in an effort to confuse Dalton and his offensive line.
Dalton has proven that he can be an effective regular season quarterback but against the Steelers it’s been another story. I’d like to see the Steelers add yet another sad chapter to Dalton’s book.