The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

November 22, 2012

Steelers turn to ageless Batch

PITTSBURGH — Mike Wallace is in his fourth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, so the wide receiver is familiar with all this talk about Charlie Batch.

Asked if it was at all concerning that the man throwing the ball to him on Sunday will soon be 38 years old, Wallace shrugged.

“He’s been old,” he said of Batch. “It’s not like he just got old. Chuck’s been old since I got here, so it’s nothing new.”

Neither is Batch making a fill-in start for his hometown Steelers (6-4), who are at Cleveland (2-8) this weekend. For the eighth time since he signed with Pittsburgh 11 years ago, Batch will be under center to begin a game for the Steelers.

No Steeler is older than Batch, whose birthday is Dec. 5. He spent the first four years of his career with Detroit, but only nose tackle Casey Hampton was with Pittsburgh before Batch arrived.

“They say Charlie built the building,” guard Willie Colon deadpanned. “That’s what I heard.”

Teammates might enjoy yukking it up when it comes to Batch’s age, but they’re happy they have him and more content than could be reasonably expected for an NFL team down to its third-string quarterback.

“I feel comfortable with Charlie,” Wallace said. “I feel like he can lead us to victory any game he plays in. Just two years ago when we played with him the first four games we were 3-1 so I’m excited about having Chuck out there.”

Batch started two of those early season games while Ben Roethlisberger served a four-game suspension and Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon sat out with injuries.

This season, Roethlisberger and Leftwich both have rib injuries. Leftwich relieved Roethlisberger two weeks ago in a win over Kansas City and started this past Sunday’s loss to Baltimore.

With most other teams, dropping down to the third-string QB – if they even have one – more often than not means an inexperienced rookie. With the Steelers, it means one of the most tenured quarterbacks in the NFL.

“Charlie’s a well-rounded quarterback who’s ... comfortable running the majority of our offense,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “He’s a veteran savvy guy who’s an accurate thrower, short and long.”

In his most recent game, Batch completed 15 of 22 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 27-0 win over St. Louis last Christmas Eve. He is 5-2 as a starter with the Steelers, and one of his losses was a meaningless outing in the 2007 season finale when Pittsburgh’s playoff seeding was wrapped up.

In recent years, Batch seemingly enters every training camp as – at best – No. 3 on the depth chart, and there are whispers his roster spot is tenuous.

Then usually every year, he starts at least one game and excels.

“These opportunities don’t come often anymore,” Batch said. “And here I am, getting up there in years. When you have this opportunity you cherish it.”

Batch, who said he had one of his better training camps, joked he’s “doing it for all the 38-year-olds.”

Some of the best quarterbacks in the game (Peyton Manning, 36, and Tom Brady, 35) are close to Batch’s age. The 37-year-old Matt Hasselbeck passed for 290 yards in beating the Steelers last month. Brett Favre was 41 when he played his final game – 40 when he had an MVP-caliber season with the Minnesota Vikings.

“Charlie is Charlie,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “He’s very smart, and he takes pride in the minor details of his job.”

Wallace said Batch regularly asks more questions than anyone in the offensive meeting room, and several players refer to the quarterback as the proverbial “coach on the field.”

That prompted Haley to say, half-jokingly, “We’ve got to teach him the art of not over-coaching.”

The only other healthy quarterback on Pittsburgh’s roster is Brian Hoyer, signed Tuesday. While Haley and teammates have marveled at Hoyer’s intelligence and ability to pick up the offense quickly, the Steelers need Batch to stay healthy.

“Right now,” Batch said, “I’m that guy and there’s no telling how long I’ll have this position. It could be one week, it could be two or three. I don’t know. But either way, you just go week to week and not worry about what’s going to happen after the fact.”

With 53 career starts, 78 games and 1,534 pass attempts, Batch thinks he’s prepared for Sunday.

The only adjustment Batch said he wants to make is the timing of the play clock and interpreting Haley’s play call while in the huddle to get it out to the rest of the offense.

More than 14 years after his first NFL start, Batch this week has had the butterflies associated with being eager for game day.

“I still get excited about it because these opportunities don’t come much,” he said. “Right now, I know I have at least one other one.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Hawks already building toward next season

    Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0416 Penguins rally to wear out Jackets

    Brandon Sutter scored on a wrist shot from the left circle 8:18 into the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rally for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
    Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh’s two-goal deficit.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014