The Cincinnati Bengals are preparing to start with back-up quarterback AJ McCarron in their Wild Card playoff clash with AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Saturday.
Dalton, who broke the thumb on his throwing hand during a December 13 game against the Steelers, had the cast on his right hand removed after a visit to a local hand specialist on Monday, but his status for the playoffs is still uncertain.
McCarron is preparing to start his fourth straight game in Dalton's place and head coach Marvin Lewis is pleased with what he has seen from the 25-year-old, who went 22/32 for 280 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions when relieving Dalton against Pittsburgh four weeks ago.
Lewis said: "We're preparing with AJ McCarron to be the starting QB. Whether Andy is the backup or where Andy is, we'll know down the line. He'll be ready when he's ready.
"We're pleased with AJ's preparation, his 'diving into everything' mentality, and how anxious for this opportunity he has been throughout the season."
If McCarron leads the Bengals to victory on Saturday, he will become the first quarterback to win a playoff game with such little experience since 1979, when Gifford Nielsen led the Houston Oilers to a win in San Diego.
News of Dalton's health has dominated headlines in Cincinnati leading up to the playoffs but McCarron is determined to keep his attention solely on the Steelers.
"All I know is focus on what I need to focus on," McCarron said. "Andy's like a big brother to me. I wish him nothing but the best, a fast recovery. But at the same time, my mind-set is that this is my offence right now and I've got to take it and go win."
Meanwhile, the Steelers aren't ready to rule out running back DeAngelo Williams for Saturday's game.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Williams is "day to day" after injuring his right leg in last weekend's victory over Cleveland.
The 32-year-old Williams tied for the NFL lead with 11 rushing touchdowns while filling in for Le'Veon Bell, who is out for the season with a torn ligament in his right knee.
If Williams can't play, the Steelers will rely heavily on Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint as they to take on the Bengals.