For the last eight seasons Brett Keisel, James Farrior and others on the Steelers defense were accustomed to preparing for the Cincinnati Bengals with Carson Palmer at the helm.
But they will face a new challenge this week when the two teams meet at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Palmer is gone, traded to the Oakland Raiders, and rookie Andy Dalton has taken over under center for the Bengals, leading them to a 6-2 record so far this season.
"There is no Carson Palmer, no Ochocinco," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "It's different. We are going to have to really get ready for these different guys. They are playing with a lot of energy. They are playing great football. It's going to be a handful.
"They are playing smart ball, taking care of the football, not having turnovers. He has really picked those guys up on his shoulders and is playing great."
Dalton, who is the NFL's 15th-rannked quarterback, has completed 158 of 257 pass attempts for 1,696 yards and 12 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 85.0.
"He is playing outstanding right now," said Farrior. "You don't expect a rookie to come in and do so well so early on. I think they are doing a good job of coaching him. He doesn't make mistakes and manages the offense well, keeping them winning games."
It's not just players on defense who have taken notice of what Dalton has done this year. Ben Roethlisberger, who led the Steelers to the AFC Championship game his rookie year, is impressed with the young signal caller.
"Dalton has come in and done a great job," said Roethlisberger. "I thought he was one of the better quarterbacks coming out last year. He has done a great job of making plays.
"He played really well in a pro style offense where it wasn't look to the sideline for every play and let the coach check. He is a good quarterback and he is making good plays and taking what the defense gives him. He can make plays outside of the pocket. He is quick enough and fast enough to get away from the rush. He can throw well on the run. Doesn't have a monster arm but he has good timing with his throws, he can get the ball into tight windows because he anticipates guys being open."
Six Steelers did not practice on Wednesday, including WR Arnaz Battle (hamstring), WR Jerricho Cotchery (knee), S Troy Polamalu (rib), WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee), LB Stevenson Sylvester (knee), and LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring). LB James Farrior (calf), G Doug Legursky (toe), and WR Hines Ward (head) did practice.