If he's chosen, Batch says he's ready
Charlie Batch might have walked out of the Steelers' doors for the final time when coach Mike Tomlin reduced his roster to 53 players today.
Instead, Batch likely will lead the Steelers at quarterback into their season opener Sept. 12 against Atlanta at Heinz Field because Byron Leftwich will miss two to four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Leftwich was injured during the second quarter of Thursday night's final preseason game against Carolina.
The forgotten man in this summer's quarterback derby likely will become The Man.
"You look back, we had three solid guys who were able to go in, step in, if needed," Batch said. "Now we're down to two. Over the weekend, they'll determine what's going to happen. Either way, I'll be ready to go.
- Game: Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field in season opener for both teams.
- When: 1 p.m.
- TV: WPXI.
"I feel good, I really do. Did the reps at training camp happen? No, but we're not in training camp anymore. Right now we're getting ready for Atlanta and we have the weekend and another seven days to get ready for them. At that point, whatever happens, happens. But either way, over this weekend, we'll start the preparation of getting the game plan together. I'll be ready to go either way."
He always has been.
Tomlin gave him little practice time and hardly any in games this summer, as he gave Leftwich and Dennis Dixon most of the time when Ben Roethlisberger wasn't getting it. Leftwich was expected to start through Roethlisberger's four-game suspension, right up until his injury Thursday night.
Word now is the Steelers are leaning toward Batch to start and they will bring in Dixon as they had planned to do had Leftwich started -- using him in various spots at quarterback.
Batch recalled having his roster spot in question at the beginning of the 2005 training camp, when he, Roethlisberger, Tommy Maddox and Brian St. Pierre were on the roster.
"This isn't the first time I was faced with making this roster," Batch said. "Back in '05, it was the same way. Against Carolina, I had to go out there and finish the preseason game, had about 2 1/2 quarters of work to go out there and prove I belonged on this team.
"Now here we are five years later, still facing the same thing. So either way, it was just a matter of going in there, doing my job and controlling whatever I could control."
Batch, 35, has started four games with the Steelers and won three of them. He filled in for an injured Roethlisberger twice in 2005, and the Steelers won at Green Bay and at home against Cleveland. Given a week's notice to get ready when Roethlisberger had his appendix removed in '06, Batch started the opener, and the Steelers beat Miami. His last start came at Baltimore in the '07 season finale, which the Steelers lost, 27-21.
He played in only one game last season after Roethlisberger left the Nov, 22 game at Kansas City with a concussion in overtime. Batch replaced him in the middle of a series and left with a broken wrist after four plays.
The Steelers re-signed Batch as a free agent in the spring before Roethlisberger's suspension, after which they traded a seventh-round draft pick to Tampa Bay for Leftwich. They prepared Leftwich all spring to start the first month of the season.
"That's the way this thing goes sometimes," Batch said. "If you look back in April, we didn't know what was going to happen and they made the move to bring Byron in here and solidify the position. At that point, you just have to figure out where things fall.
"I didn't know how it was, going into it back in April or going into training camp in July. All I could do is be ready when my number was called upon."
The sprain and pain for Leftwich was a financial gain for Batch. If he is on the roster for the first game Sept. 12, he is guaranteed his full salary of $855,000. If he had been cut, he would have been guaranteed nothing.
It also means that another player who would have made the 53-man roster now will not to make room for three quarterbacks, provided the Steelers do not place Leftwich on injured reserve. NFL teams must reduce their rosters to 53 today.
The team's original plan was to keep two quarterbacks until Roethlisberger returned -- he will not count against the Steelers roster until he rejoins the team Oct. 4 to get ready to resume play Oct. 17 against Cleveland at Heinz Field.
One player who firmed up his place on the roster Thursday night was rookie inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, a fifth-round draft choice.
Sylvester made plays all over the field against the Carolina Panthers and tied for the team lead with fellow rookie cornerback Crezdon Butler with five solo tackles and one assist. Sylvester also had one of the Steelers' four sacks and pressured the quarterback a few other times in addition to making two tackles on special teams.
Most of the rookie class is expected to make the team except for injured tackle Chris Scott and perhaps defensive lineman Doug Worthington.
First Published September 4, 2010 12:00 am