Practice doesn't always make QB Batch perfect
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Veteran Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch hasn't taken many repetitions with the first-team offense this summer. Hasn't taken many snaps in the first three preseason games with the reserves, either.
Of course, that's nothing new for Batch, who has learned over the years how to prepare himself without practice time. Batch's track record as a reserve -- most recently his winning performances last season -- make him the likely candidate to be the backup to Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1 after the arm injury to Byron Leftwich.
"I was in the same situation last year, didn't get many preseason opportunities, and all of a sudden, I have to go in there and play," Batch said Monday. "But at the end of the day, no one cares if you have preseason snaps. When the lights are on, they need you to go out there and perform."
Batch, who is entering his 14th NFL season, has done that consistently since joining the Steelers in 2002. Batch hasn't always been first in line as the No. 2 quarterback, but circumstances have elevated him to that role on several occasions.
After injuries to Leftwich and Dennis Dixon last season, Batch had to play in three games and start twice while Roethlisberger was serving his league-mandated four-game suspension.
Batch came on for an injured Dixon and led the Steelers to a win at Tennessee in Week 2. The next week he tied a career-high with three touchdown passes in a victory at Tampa Bay. Batch lost his final start in Week 4 when Baltimore mounted a last-minute winning drive at Heinz Field.
In 2005, Batch played a big role in the Steelers winning Super Bowl XL. With Roethlisberger out with an injury, Batch kept the team on course by winning midseason games against the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns.
Those victories were significant because the Steelers lost three consecutive games before winning their final eight en route to Super Bowl XL.
"For me, I've been in this offense for a while," Batch said. "I do know what to expect from being around. The experience I have playing in this league allowed me to do what I've been able to do as far as coming into a game cold and be able to go out there and play. That's the dirty part of being a backup. You don't know when your number is going to be called. It can be the first week. It can be Week 17. At the end of the day, no one cares whether you got practice reps when your number is called. At the end of the day, it's just a matter of going out there and helping your team win."
Coach Mike Tomlin said Monday that a final determination on the new backup will not be made until after the final preseason game Thursday night against Carolina. Tomlin gave Roethlisberger a day off Monday and split the repetitions between Batch and Dixon, who is entering his fourth season in the league.
"We're determining that," Tomlin said. "We're giving Charlie and Dennis a lot of work. We didn't give Ben a lot of work today and that probably will be how it shakes out in the game. In terms of the pecking order with those two, we'll determine that as we get closer to game time. Then we'll make a determination after that game."
When asked if anything should be read into Batch taking all of the repetitions with the first-team offense Monday, Tomlin said "no."
Batch, who started four seasons with the Detroit Lions before signing with the Steelers, knows he has to take advantage of the increased opportunities this week.
"I have to go out there and play and play well," Batch said. "I know the guys who will be on the sideline watching will be the guys evaluating me. I want to put on a performance and say, 'Hey, if I have to step in the huddle, you can count on me to get the job done.'
"Right now, for me, whenever my number is called, I have to go out there and make a pitch on why I should be the next guy should something happen to Ben."
This week is an important week for Batch and Dixon because they won't get many repetitions with the first-team offense once the regular season starts.
"You never know what can happen throughout the course of the season," Batch said. "You have to stay on tune with your game, knowing this may be the last week you get reps with starters. After that, Ben gets the reps with the ones and we get whatever is leftover, and it's not much. You have to make sure you hone your skills this week."
Tomlin said Leftwich had surgery to repair the fracture in his arm Monday, but said the team will not make a determination about his status with the team for another few days.
First Published August 30, 2011 12:00 am