Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton appreciates Ben Roethlisberger's comments earlier this week that he's his choice for Rookie of the Year, but that's about it.
"I did hear that," Dalton said before Thursday's practice. "It's cool to hear that from another guy but everybody's got an opinion. I'm just trying to be me. I'd say he knows what he's talking about. It's not my focus at all."
No one had a better rookie year than Roethlisberger when he went unbeaten in 13 starts in 2004. Here are his numbers for those games compared to Dalton's first 11 starts:
DALTON: 218-of-363 for 2,509 yards, 60.1 percent, 6.9 per throw for 16 TDs, 12 INTs and 81.8 rating
ROETHLISBERGER: 196-of-295 for 2,261, 66.4 percent, 8.9 per for 17 TDs and 11 INTs and 98.1 rating
For the record, Roethlisberger pumped up Dalton during his Wednesday conference call with the Cincinnati media when he was asked to expound on what impresses him following the praise he offered after last month's Steelers win at Paul Brown Stadium.
"Anticipating throws. Whereas in college you can wait for guys to get open and throw it, he throws it before guys are coming out of their breaks, before guys are getting into their holes, as he's getting pressured," Roethlisberger said. "There were a couple of throws last time we played them, and I was on the sideline and I told the story of when, but we've got a guy right in his face, the receiver is still running a route, he throws an out route and the guy breaks right to the ball and it's perfect. Some of the things he did were really impressive. Right now I think, and I don't know how the talk is, but he's rookie of the year. I think he's that good of a quarterback."
Dalton and Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton are neck-and-neck stat-wise with Dalton's rating barely ahead of Newton's 81.1. Newton has thrown 19 more passes, has 500 more yards and is averaging nearly a yard more per throw with a slightly better completion percentage of 61. But Dalton has thrown four more TD passes and two fewer interceptions while winning four more games.
"Obviously I'd love for it to happen, but that's definitely not what I'm focused on," Dalton said.
Roethlisberger and Dalton quickly chatted after the game, which Dalton has discovered is an NFL postgame rite. The opposing quarterbacks usually try to find each other, or Dalton says he might say hello during pregame.
"He just said, 'Good job, keep it up, and see you in a couple of weeks,' " Dalton said. "I think it makes it fun getting to know some of the other quarterbacks, especially the ones in the division. I think that's part of it."
INJURY UPDATE: It's looking more and more like left end Carlos Dunlap is going to miss his second straight game with his hamstring problem since he didn't practice again Thursday and hasn't since he reaggravated it in Baltimore two weeks ago.
Running back Cedric Benson and defensive tackle Domata Peko, both nursing foot injuries, didn't practice for the second straight day but since they finished Sunday's game they should be OK.
Cornerback Nate Clements surfaced on the injury report with a hamstring injury and was limited. So were the rest of the players that sat Wednesday: wide receiver Jerome Simpson (knee), safety Chris Crocker (bicep) and cornerback Brandon Ghee (groin). Tight end Donald Lee (foot) and defensive tackle Pat Sims (ankle) were limited for the second straight day.
The Steelers got a slight scare Thursday. Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Roethlisberger took a snap the wrong way during the last series of practice and banged his broken throwing thumb. He left with an ice bag on it and was categorized as limited, but indicated to Dulac he should be OK.
Roethlisberger isn't sure when he broke the thumb during the game at PBS. He's worn a glove on it and while some observers don't see any change in velocity or accuracy, Roethlisberger said Wednesday the thumb is a key part of his mechanics.
"It's a little bit of everything," he said. "Having the strength to hold on to it, to pump fake and to zip it in there. People don't realize the thumb is one of the last things as the ball is coming off your hand. It's one of the things that's balancing and holding the ball in your hand. It's going to be painful but it's nothing I can't deal with.
"It's going to be a factor the rest of the year but you know me and I don't make excuses. You just go out and play the game regardless of inclement weather, injuries or whatever it is."
His receivers had a few drops in Kansas City on Sunday night, but Roethlisberger still went 21-of-31 for 68 percent even if it was for just 193 yards.
His center, Maurkice Pouncey, should be OK after he left the Chiefs game violently ill. He took snaps before being overcome by a virus that sapped him of 12 pounds. He got two back and is at 279.