On the Steelers: Batch could be only option


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Charlie Batch might find it amusing if it weren't so serious. He is the last man standing, the lone healthy quarterback the Steelers have at the position as they prepare for their third game.

He was snubbed all spring and all summer in the competition at quarterback, rarely given snaps in practice never mind a chance to compete. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that Batch's history of injuries worked against him. He looked to be the quarterback they would release to start the season.

And here he is, the only healthy one on their roster with a chance to start the Steelers' next game Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

The news on the latest injury to a Steelers quarterback may not be as good as they had hoped Sunday after Dennis Dixon's left knee was injured in their 19-11 victory at Tennessee. One source close to the situation said that Dixon has a torn lateral meniscus, which could keep him out 3-5 weeks.

Tomlin said after the game he did not know who would start against the Buccaneers. Given choices all year, he turned away from Batch, even after veteran Byron Leftwich's left knee was sprained.

Now Tomlin may have no choice after Dixon's injury. The Steelers provided no official update on Dixon's condition, although he attended meetings Monday with his teammates.

Leftwich would like to help his coach make that choice at quarterback. He returned to the team Monday after they released him for one game in a procedural move to sign defensive tackle Steve McLendon for the game in Tennessee. On Wednesday, Leftwich will test his injured knee to give him and his coaches an idea of whether he can return to the field of play.

"I'm feeling better, a whole lot better. I want to get through a full practice," Leftwich said Monday. "I'm quite sure they want to see me get through a full practice, too. I'm going to try to get out there Wednesday and really push it and see how healthy I am. I'm going to really push it and see what happens."

Just about anything and everything has happened at the quarterback position for the Steelers this season. Their franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was suspended for the first four games. Then Leftwich, groomed all year to start in place of Roethlisberger after they acquired him in a trade from Tampa Bay, sprained his left knee in the final preseason game.

That left Dixon and Batch. Tomlin chose Dixon to start the opener. He had a shaky start but they prevailed in overtime, 15-9, against Atlanta at home.

Dixon left the game Sunday in Nashville after one play in the second quarter, holding a 10-3 lead. Batch played three quarters and while it was not pretty, he helped maintain that lead. Batch completed 5 of 11 passes for 25 yards. He was sacked twice. Dixon completed 4 of 6 passes for 18 yards, and ran three times for another 28 yards. He, too, was sacked twice. Combined, they had just 21 net yards passing after the 22 yards in sack losses.

"I was trying to do anything that I can to help this team win," said Batch, seeing his first extended playing time in a real game since the end of the 2007 season. "That was going in there and executing the game plan and making sure that I can go out there and help put points on the board."

Batch, 35, watched as his offensive linemen shuffled in and out and down and over all game. Only rookie center Maurkice Pouncey played every snap. Guards Trai Essex and Chris Kemoeatu left for a time with cramps. Tackle Flozell Adams was dehydrated. Jonathan Scott, starting for the first time with the Steelers because of an injury to left tackle Max Starks, played at both tackle spots. The only available backups, Tony Hills and Doug Legursky, both played.

"At the beginning of the fourth quarter, that is when I really noticed," Batch said. "I was looking down and all of a sudden you see Trai cramping up and Chris cramping up and even Flozell. There was a lot of times when guys were running out. It was just a matter, really at that point, to give guys a rest to the point that they feel they can come back into the game."


For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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