On the Steelers: Batch to start Sunday

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Charlie Batch will allow others to consider the irony that he, as the lone healthy quarterback, will start Sunday for the Steelers in Tampa, Fla.

The original plan had him getting released on the final cut. Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that he gave Batch few snaps in the spring and throughout training camp because he was injury prone. As if that might not have been hurtful enough, Tomlin said Batch's experience also worked against him during the four-man quarterback derby.

Then the only other quarterbacks on the roster came down with knee injuries, and it is Batch who will try to keep this unusual first month of the season going in the right direction for the Steelers when they play the Buccaneers, who also are 2-0.

Tomlin declared Batch, 35, as his starter over Byron Leftwich, out since Sept. 2 because of a sprained left knee. Leftwich went through a full practice for the first time Wednesday, the same day Dennis Dixon, the starter in the first two games, had surgery on his left knee to repair a torn lateral meniscus.

Ben Roethlisberger continues to watch from home halfway through his suspension.

"All along, I was trying to throw my hat in the ring and try to be one of the options for these first four games," Batch said Wednesday after practice. "Did I ever imagine it being this way? No, but here I am."

Indeed, he will start his first game since the last game of the 2007 regular season at Baltimore. He has been with the Steelers as a backup since 2002, but this will be just his fifth start. He is 3-1 as a starter.

What held Batch back are injuries. He missed all 2004 (knee) and 2008 (collarbone), and his wrist was broken when he replaced Roethlisberger in Kansas City last season, opening the door for Dixon to start in Baltimore the following week.

"No question Charlie's experience was a part of the equation," Tomlin explained two weeks ago as to why Batch got so few snaps all summer. "We knew he is a guy that can be prepared to play above the line in football with a limited number of reps.

"But, also in the equation, has been Charlie's durability or lack of durability. Those issues were concerns, and one of the reasons he was third in the pecking order. Because of the limited amount of football he's played in the last couple of years; he's been injured while playing the limited amount of football."

Batch can't worry about what occurred this summer, even if he got his chance to work Wednesday with the first team for just the first time since that Dec. 30, 2007 game in Baltimore.

"I'll let you all decipher that," Batch said of the reasons given for his inopportunity. "For me, if that was the reason, he gave it. The only way you can prove it [to be wrong] is be out there. The only way I could do that is being out there in the preseason and showing that.

"I think that coming out of this Tennessee game, taking a couple of shots and being able to stand up and not have any problems heading into this week, I think that was, hopefully, one way I could prove it."

Leftwich, wearing a brace on his injured left knee, hardly could argue with the choice Tomlin made.

"I'm OK with that. I'm still trying to prove that I can be healthy and go out there and play. I understand the situation. I'll prepare myself as usual. I'm trying to get it back stronger. It responded well today; we'll see how it is in the morning."

The Steelers' two starting receivers said they need to work with Batch this week because they have seen so little of him.

"We're going to go in practice and just try to get a nice feel for Charlie," Mike Wallace said. "I haven't been with him for a while until the game. We're going to go out there and try to get a nice feel for him. Hopefully, we can build up a quick chemistry for Sunday."

Said Hines Ward, "When you're juggling quarterbacks around, it's hard. He'll get all the reps this week. We'll get on board. We feel fine with Charlie."

Antwaan Randle El would play quarterback if something were to happen to Batch and Leftwich Sunday in Tampa.

Mixed messages

Linebacker James Harrison received bad news and good from the NFL office Wednesday.

He was fined $5,000 for body-slamming Tennessee quarterback Vince Young on a sack in the third quarter of the Steelers' 19-11 victory Sunday in Nashville.

And he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher complained publicly Monday about Harrison's hit on Young. No penalty was called on the play.

"You say if that happened to [Tom] Brady or that happened to so-and-so or so-and-so there would have been seven flags on the field," Fisher said. "Why wasn't there one yesterday? I don't know. Maybe it was the heat."

Asked Wednesday after practice if the hit was worth paying the fine, Harrison said "No!"

Harrison was credited with 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and 11 tackles. His coaches, after viewing tapes, reduced his forced fumbles to one.

Some missed opportunities

The Steelers' 21-yard net passing offense in Tennessee ranks among their more dubious ones. Their research only goes back to 1965, so since then, it was their fifth-lowest passing output.

Yet, it is the only one on the list in which they won the game. The worst during that time came in 1982 when they were held to minus-2 yards in Buffalo in a 13-0 loss.

Tomlin thought they should have had more against the Titans.

"We didn't operate very well on third down. I thought Charlie made some plays, particularly in the second half, and we had an opportunity to make some plays that we didn't make. They were competitive catches, no question.

"There wasn't really one guy; if you look at it, all of our guys --very reliable people. Heath Miller, I thought, had an opportunity to deliver a play or two for Charlie. Mike Wallace had an opportunity to deliver a significant play that would've put us in scoring position on a third down. I thought Hines was capable of maybe catching that touchdown on that little short fade. Those are the kind of plays that need to be made."

Other injury updates

All the injured players from last week, including starters Max Starks and Casey Hampton, went through a full practice Wednesday. The only missing players were Dixon and guard Trai Essex, who has an ankle injury and will not play.

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 . First Published September 23, 2010 4:00 AM


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