Three days before he turns 38 years old, Charlie Batch will try to stop the Baltimore Ravens from blowing cold air on the Steelers' playoff chances. He will try to prevent the Ravens from celebrating the AFC North Division championship while the Steelers watch. He will try to hold together a team whose parts have been flying off in various directions for weeks.
It could be Batch's final try in the NFL, and he'd like to go out a winner.
While it appears Ben Roethlisberger will not be ready to return to play quarterback for the Steelers this week, he should return for their next game Dec. 9 against San Diego at Heinz Field. The same likely holds true for his top backup, Byron Leftwich.
So that leaves Baltimore up to Batch, and with the likelihood his 15th season will be his last in the NFL, this then would come as his final appearance, one last chance to go out a winner.
"I know I didn't play well last week," Batch said. "Anytime that you have another opportunity like this week, for me this is going out there and making sure I don't make those mistakes again."
Batch thew three interceptions, wiping out any other good he did at quarterback in Cleveland, where he completed 20 of 34 for 199 and was sacked once. He did not get great help from his receivers, and he got none from his backs, who lost four fumbles (plus another by receiver Emmanuel Sanders) and ran for just 49 yards on 20 carries.
Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady could not have won under those circumstances.
"Chuck can come in and make throws, he understands the offense," Sanders said. "We have confidence he can go in and handle business. But the offensive line, the running backs, us as wide receivers, we have to help Chuck also. That's what this about. This is a team game. One man is not going to win the ballgame, we have to win as a collective group."
Roethlisberger said he has confidence that Batch will play well in Baltimore. "I firmly believe that. They know what he's capable of. He's been doing it a long time. They respect him. I think he's ready to rise to the occasion."
It's not as if the Steelers beat lowly Oakland and Tennessee with Roethlisberger at quarterback, even though it's assumed by many they would have beaten Baltimore and Cleveland the past two weeks had he played. Weren't they tied with one-win Kansas City at home, 10-10, when Roethlisberger departed early in the second half with his arm and rib injuries?
Batch played well in the preseason, when he was 18 of 24 with a 110.8 passer rating. He not only hadn't played since then, he got little practice at the position as the No. 3 quarterback.
"I have to make better decisions," Batch said. "The three turnovers just can't happen, especially when you're moving the football. I think right now, just getting back on the practice field, I have to go out there and make sure I get the timing with the receivers. And I need to make sure I'm doing whatever it takes to put this team in the end zone."
Roethlisberger has not gotten closer to playing Sunday after two practices. He went through another limited practice Thursday, and there's only one practice left today before the game Sunday in Baltimore. Since Roethlisberger has not played or practiced since he was injured in the second half Nov. 12 against Kansas City, it's not likely he could be ready to go this Sunday by only practicing today, which would be his first action in 18 days.
Roethlisberger said he has a lack of strength in his injured right shoulder as well as pain.
"I'm going to be honest with coach and I think he trusts me to be honest with him," Roethlisberger said. "I'm not going to go out there and tell him I feel great if I don't."
Roethlisberger said it would not be fair to the Steelers to try to play if he were not healthy enough.
"Can I make a long throw? Can I put a lot of zip on the ball, throw it really hard before people like Ed Reed and defenders can get to the ball? Because if I can't, then I'm not putting this team in the best situation to win the game."
Playing behind two Pro Bowl outside linebackers is not an easy path to stardom, but Jason Worilds has somehow found a way to lead James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and every other teammate in sacks with five.
Sunday, he will start for the second time this season for an injured Woodley on the left side. He already has doubled his career sack total after getting five in his first two seasons.
"It can be frustrating at times," said Worilds, a second-round draft choice in 2010. "My coach says the backup is the hardest position on the field, you have to be ready. Me playing behind players of that caliber, not knowing which side you'll be in and having to know each side, it's been frustrating, but every time I get out there I try to get better."
He started seven games for the injured Woodley last season, but, when James Harrison's swollen knee benched him for the first three games, Chris Carter started in his place. Worilds became the backup on both sides when Carter went on injured reserve Nov. 15 and he's making his case as Harrison's ultimate replacement.
Willie Colon did not practice again Thursday but said he will try to do so today. If he cannot, Maurkice Pouncey will move to left guard and Doug Legursky will start at center. Left tackle Max Starks returned to practice after missing a day, but the starters at right guard and right tackle remain uncertain.
The combinations could include David DeCastro at guard and Ramon Foster at tackle or Foster at guard and rookie Kelvin Beachum at tackle.
Nose tackle Casey Hampton missed practice because he was ill.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published November 30, 2012 5:00 AM