The Pittsburgh Steelers made a significant, albeit potentially temporary change at the quarterback position yesterday, announcing that Devlin Hodges would start on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns while Mason Rudolph continues to struggle and regress in his performance.
But they weren’t the only team in the AFC North announcing a quarterback change. The team that they just beat, the Cincinnati Bengals, are making their second performance-based change at quarterback of the year, opting to turn back to long-time starter Andy Dalton after a three-game benching.
During the three games since their bye week, rookie Ryan Finley had been starting. The fourth-round pick was chosen by first-year head coach Zac Taylor, who cited a desire to get a long look at what the young quarterback could do during what is effectively a lost season. The Bengals were officially eliminated from the postseason over a week ago.
“It’s in the best interest of this football team to do this and get Andy back out there”, Taylor said in his press conference earlier this week. “We’re going to face some good defenses these next couple of weeks. They present a lot of challenges and we feel like he’s going to give us the opportunity to win the game. That’s a decision we settled on this morning”.
“I think I’ve put my foot in my mouth enough with timelines over the last four months”, he said, when asked if he viewed this as a permanent move. “Any time you make a decision, you’re trying to make it for the long term of the season. I think I’d be foolish to make any comments like that”.
Many thought that Taylor might put Dalton in the game in the second half on Sunday against the Steelers. Finley went on to complete just 12 of 26 pass attempts for 192 yards against Pittsburgh’s defense, throwing one touchdown and being sacked four times.
Over the course of his three-game starting stint, the rookie completed just 41 of 87 pass attempts, just a smidge over 47 percent, for 474 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. He threw just two touchdowns to two interceptions, posting a quarterback rating of 62.1.
In the first eight games—all losses, mind you—Dalton was completing 60.4 percent of his passes for 2252 yards, with nine touchdowns to eight interceptions. Over his last three games, he threw only two touchdowns versus four interceptions.
Of course, neither quarterback has had the services of A.J. Green all year, and John Ross has missed most of the season as well. Left tackle Cordy Glenn only made his season debut on Sunday. They haven’t had much to work with.
The Bengals face a hot New York Jets team on Sunday before traveling to Cleveland, and then have the good fortune of hosting the New England Patriots, who have by far the best scoring defense in the NFL. Two of their final five games, in fact, are against the Cleveland Browns.