On the Steelers: Batch patiently waiting his turn

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Charlie Batch might not be into New Zealand politics much these days, but he and that down-under country's minister of defense in World War I have something in common -- a belief.

"Why not me? Why not now?" was part of a quote that helped make James Allen famous.

Indeed, most everyone has heard why Byron Leftwich and why Dennis Dixon, but why not Charlie Batch as the Steelers' starting quarterback for the first four games next season? He has been their No. 2 quarterback for most of the past decade, including last season.

Yet, for the eighth consecutive spring practice, starting with five in minicamp two weeks ago, Batch ran with the third team Thursday, Dixon the second and Leftwich the first.

It is assumed by most everyone that either Leftwich or Dixon will start the season for the suspended Ben Roethlisberger, who continues to be barred from the team's facility until NFL commissioner Roger Goodell deems his behavior evaluation acceptable. Assumed by all, that is, except Charlie Batch.

"That's what speculation does this time of year," Batch said, with a laugh. "All you can really do is continue to go out there and keep performing. Obviously, they felt I could do something because they signed me back. I'm not looking at it from a numbers standpoint; you look at it as just go out there and however it falls in place, that's how it falls."

Coach Mike Tomlin has promised that all three quarterbacks will get their opportunities to show they should start, and Batch hopes that is true.

"I would like that. Right now, you have to see how it plays out. Either way, there's not a lot of reps to go around for everybody. Now the question's going to be, as we continue to move forward, how are the reps going to be split?"

That will become an even bigger question when Roethlisberger returns. Coordinator Bruce Arians says when/if Roethlisberger returns for some spring practices, "He'll jump right back in there."

Batch has been running an offense with rookies and street free agents all spring. Is this any way to win a job?

"It's a different situation, but, when you're running the offense, you have to deal with all those nuances -- the younger receivers, the younger linemen, they're going through that whole learning process," Batch said. "Maybe you understand where guys are supposed to be, but they may be there a split-second slower than you're accustomed to seeing.

"Right now, you look at it as you're running the offense and you're almost learning and teaching at the same time. Those mistakes that are made will maybe be made with me, so, by the time they get to Ben, they're already corrected because if they're still here they'll be counted on to play."

Batch understands what is going on. He has been with the Steelers since 2002 and will be entering his 13th NFL season. Leftwich spent 2008 with the Steelers, and Dixon will be in his third NFL season. The coaches know what Batch can do and must find out about the others.

"I think they have a situation where you have to look at Dennis extensively, because you have to figure out what you have," Batch said. "Based on what the rules are right now, they have six years to decide with Dennis because he has six years before he's an unrestricted free agent. So, is he your guy long-term? Is Byron your guy short-term? You don't know that. I'm not going to be around here six more years. So, they have to answer those questions."

While they try to come up with those answers, Batch said he will provide them with the same response he always has given the Steelers.

"I'd love to be the guy. All I can do right now is go through OTAs, once we go to training camp, keep doing what I'm doing and, obviously, if it gets to the point that 'OK, Charlie, you're the guy,' I'll be ready to go.

"That's not going to stop, I've always prepared as if I'm the starter. When my number is called, I'll be ready."

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


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