Steelers' Batch gets his shot, delivers

Fourth-string quarterback Charlie Batch (left) had a surprisingly good start for the Steelers. Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

TAMPA, Fla. -- Charlie Batch is like an old, dependable car that collects dust in your garage -- it's rarely used, but it's good to know it's there whenever you need it.

Sometimes you start it up and take the car around the block for old-time's sake, like the Steelers did with Batch in the preseason. Other times, the luxury vehicle (Ben Roethlisberger) and second (Byron Leftwich) and third cars (Dennis Dixon) must go in the shop for unexpected repairs.

But there's always Batch, the Pittsburgh-area product who's been through the ups and downs and runs the offense well when you hand him the keys.

On Sunday, Pittsburgh turned the ignition and revved up the 35-year-old quarterback once again, and he responded with his best performance as a Steeler. Batch completed 12 of 17 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-13 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Batch was the only healthy quarterback on Pittsburgh's roster and improved to 4-1 as a starter for the Steelers. Batch also threw two interceptions but helped Pittsburgh improve to 3-0 without Roethlisberger.

"Hats off to a lot of people, but you really got to tip a hat to Charlie Batch," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "What he was able to do for us today, he played like a veteran and the guy hasn't had many opportunities, not only in recent years, but recent days, weeks or months."

Batch was mostly an afterthought with Tomlin and Pittsburgh's coaching this offseason. With Roethlisberger due to serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, Leftwich and Dixon competed for the starting job and took the majority of repetitions in minicamp, training camp and preseason. Roethlisberger also needed playing time to prepare for his eventual return.

According to Batch, he understood it was a unique situation. So he did a lot of individual work on the sideline and after practice to get time with receivers that he couldn't get time with in practice. Batch said he was "absolutely" disappointed he was never included in the quarterback derby, but he didn't say anything to the team.

"I always wanted to put my hat in the ring," Batch said candidly. "For me, I didn't get that opportunity early ... But things happened and here I am with that opportunity, and I had to make the most of it."

Steelers veteran Hines Ward, who caught one of Batch's touchdown throws, was impressed with all the things the quarterback has had to overcome.

"It's just amazing," Ward said. "I'm just happy for him, and I think he got a game ball. He came in and finally got a week's worth of preparation with the guys."

Batch has always played well in short stints in Pittsburgh, which begs the question: Why didn't he get a chance to compete in the first place?

Tomlin, with his team sitting at 3-0, said now isn't the time to second-guess.

"I don't get do-overs; I don't live in that world," Tomlin said bluntly. "I will let you guys (the media) talk about that."

When it comes to Batch, Tomlin added that "good things usually happen to those kind of people." Batch did things the Steeler way: He worked hard, never complained, and was ready when it was time to step up.

With Leftwich still working his way back from a knee injury and Batch playing well, Batch shouldn't get overlooked a second time. He deserves to start for Pittsburgh in a big rivalry game next week against the Baltimore Ravens (2-1).

"One thing I wanted to do is go out here and put it on tape to put the pressure on Coach Tomlin to make a tough decision for next week," Batch said. "Because I still want to be out there again, even though Byron is going to be healthy. I felt that I kind of made my case."

Eventually, the Steelers will go back to driving their luxury car Oct. 17 when Roethlisberger returns. But the 35-year old classic will be waiting in the garage, ready to perform.