CINCINNATI -- Even when Andy Dalton had comparatively few fans in the Queen City, there was still one large man just a ways up the Ohio River who pulled hard for the Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback whenever he faced a team other than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I'm a big fan of his. He knows that," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said this week. "I really think he's a great football player. I'm glad he's doing what he's doing because I've always felt he was a good football player. He's taken a [bad] rap because of the playoffs and this and that, but really he's a top-tier guy that's playing like it this year."
As for Dalton, the feelings about Roethlisberger are mutual.
"He's always fun to watch," Dalton said. "You never know what's going to happen when he's out there. He extends plays, he does so much moving around and all that kind of stuff. He really gives their team an opportunity to win. It seems like that in every game they play."
The two quarterbacks spent part of this week boosting each other's egos, but by 1 p.m. ET Sunday, they will be looking to outscore each other.
Dalton got the best of Roethlisberger on Nov. 1 at Pittsburgh, completing a 9-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green in the final three minutes. With Cincinnati's defense picking off Roethlisberger three times, including once just before the pivotal game-winning drive, Dalton did just enough to help his team to a 16-10 victory. Based on the way both offenses have played in the five weeks since, this latest contest figures to be a relative shootout.
In four of their past five games, the Bengals have scored 30 or more points. Across those five games, they have averaged 351.4 yards of offense.
Pittsburgh has averaged 35.8 points and 529 yards of offense over that same stretch. Healthier than they were at earlier points this season, the Steelers are now completely clicking on offense.
"We want to score as much as we can, just because we know how powerful that offense is and how quickly they can score," Dalton said.
Roethlisberger isn't discounting Dalton's ability to do just that.
"If you play the position long enough, you can see guys that have the talent and have the ability, and he's a guy that's one," Roethlisberger said. "He can make all the throws. He can be an athlete with his legs, make plays, extend plays. So to me, he's got it all."
It helps that Dalton has a solid stable of receivers to throw to (and could be getting a key one back this week if tight end Tyler Eifert plays after a neck injury two weeks ago), just like Roethlisberger. While the Steelers' receivers might be faster overall, both groups have been in sync with their quarterbacks for some time now.
How much will the pass-catchers be used this week? It's anybody's guess. Although temperatures in Cincinnati are expected to be in the high 40s, there's a chance winds will gust above 20 mph, making it somewhat difficult to throw deep.
Deep passing has been a big part of the game this year for both quarterbacks. Against the Browns last week, Dalton was 5-for-5 with two touchdowns on throws that traveled at least 15 yards downfield. Roethlisberger averages 10.7 air yards per pass, which is highest in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.