QB Batch in thick of things as Steelers starter


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Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch is in his 15th season in the NFL, has appeared in 79 career games and made 53 career starts, but that doesn't mean he is not nervous this week.

Batch will replace the injured Byron Leftwich -- who replaced the injured Ben Roethlisberger -- and will make his first start for the Steelers this season Sunday against the Browns in Cleveland.

"I do get excited, and you kind of get those butterflies running through, but you have to kind of control them because we are still far enough away from game day that you don't want to use all of your energy right now," said Batch while looking ahead to the AFC North game.. "I think now, over the years, I still get excited because these kinds opportunities don't come my way much, and right now I have another."

Batch's teammates said that they have faith in him because of his successful record in the NFL -- he is 5-2 in the seven games he has started for the Steelers.

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But since he is the third-string quarterback and has been thrust into duty only because the first- and second-string quarterbacks went down with injuries, it could get dicey if he is injured Sunday.

That would put the ball in the hands of Brian Hoyer, who was signed Tuesday and spent the night trying to learn as much of the playbook as possible before running the scout team Wednesday.

Hoyer has been out of football since August when the New England Patriots cut him. He said he kept sharp by throwing to high school athletes.

The Steelers were the third team to call and him for a workout -- he had previously had workouts with Green Bay and the New York Giants -- but this time he got the job.

He is far less experienced than Batch, has not had the benefit of working in Todd Haley's offense this year and isn't familiar with the Steelers personnel, particularly the wide receivers. But, he said, it's his job, like Batch's, to be ready to play Sunday, and that's what he intends to do.

"I am just trying to get as much knowledge as I can with the limited time I have," Hoyer said. "And really, at this point in the season, we are game-planning every week, so I am not trying to learn anything but what is in the game plan for this week because that would be a waste of time."

Hoyer said he benefited most from watching and listening to his mentor, Tom Brady, during his time in New England. He learned to appreciate the amount of preparation and film study Brady does to get ready for every game and he has tried to follow that model.

As for Batch, who will turn 38 this year, he goes into the game with the full endorsement of his teammates. Plus, he is known as a smart quarterback who makes good decisions. That should fit well in a possession-oriented passing game.

He admits that his physical skills have eroded, but he said he can make all the passes he will be asked to make.

"I just know that at this age, you spend a lot of time in the ice tub [after a start]. But the good thing is, I'm not the only person in this locker room who feels that way as we have a bunch of 30-year-olds," Batch said. "Right now, I feel like I am capable of going out there and making any throw. You don't get evaluated today -- it is OTAs, offseason and games to make sure that you are able to be in this position if they need to call upon you, and that's why I think I made this team.

Batch, whose previous start was Dec. 24 when he led the Steelers to an easy win against the St. Louis Rams, said he doesn't think the game plan will be much different than it would have been for Leftwich.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said he's looking forward to playing with Batch because he has spent a lot of time at practices working with him.

"It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback, we have to execute at a high level and complete passes," Sanders said. "The good thing is, personally, I've been with the second- or third-string guys and I have good chemistry with Charlie and I know he is going to come in and get the job done for us because he has done it for us in previous seasons."

NOTES -- Offensive guard David DeCastro (knee), the first-round pick, practiced Wednesday for the first time since he was injured in the third preseason game. DeCastro can be activated at any point in the next 21 days, but, if he isn't, he will be placed on injured reserve and would be out for the season. ... Leftwich (ribs), Roethlisberger (ribs, shoulder), wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (ribs), offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle), defensive end Ziggy Hood (back) and safety Troy Polamalu (calf), did not practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) was limited. ... Safety Will Allen (shoulder), running back Isaac Redman (concussion) and inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) returned to full practice. ... Leftwich said he injured his ribs on the first sack in the first quarter, not when he rolled into the end zone after his touchdown. And he said the injury had no effect on any throw he made against the Baltimore Ravens. "I felt it; it was painful, but I've been out there on that football field with way worse than that," he said. "It didn't feel that bad. I won't use it as an excuse on any pass. I did it in the first quarter -- that says everything right there. I was still able to throw the ball."... Running back Baron Batch and linebacker Marshall McFadden, who were released Tuesday, were added to the practice squad. To make room, tight end Jamie McCoy and offensive lineman Ryan Lee were released.

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Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published November 22, 2012 5:00 AM


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