PITTSBURGH -- With future Hall of Famer Brett Favre on a bye week, the NFL's oldest starting quarterback will be wearing black and gold Sunday.
"It's a blessing, I feel," Steelers 24-year-old receiver Mike Wallace said of 35-year-old teammate Charlie Batch. "Anytime you can be the oldest guy out there, that means you've been doing this well for a long time. If I was one of the oldest guys, I'd be happy and proud of it."
Coming off a three-touchdown performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Batch aims to put together an encore performance Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens (2-1) in the NFL's best rivalry. With franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wrapping up his four-game suspension, this will likely be Batch's final start of the season. He wants to make it memorable.
It's been business as usual this week for undefeated Pittsburgh (3-0), the No. 1 team in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings. Unlike Week 1 when Dixon was the starter, there weren't questions in the locker room about inexperience and how much the offense changes with a new quarterback.
Batch, a 13-year pro who is 4-1 as a starter in Pittsburgh, runs the Steelers' offense how the coaching staff wants. He stays in the pocket, is quick and decisive with the football, and only runs when necessary.
The athletic Dixon had problems with the latter, and even Roethlisberger could learn from Batch about making quicker decisions and not holding onto the football. Batch wasn't sacked last week against Tampa Bay. But he also produced the longest run of his career against the Bucs for 24 yards, which should give Baltimore another thing to worry about.
"I got the wheels," Batch warned while laughing Wednesday. "But I didn't even think about it. It was second nature. I saw things open up and I was trying to get the first down and all of a sudden I felt I could get more yardage. I think it caught [receiver Antwaan] Randle El off guard, because he was still running his route instead of looking at the football, and I passed the line of scrimmage 5 yards ago."
A win always helps, but Steelers teammates say they have a great confidence in Batch, the oldest Steeler and one of the team's bigger jokesters.
"He plays all day, and I can't ever believe anything he says," said Wallace, who caught two of Batch's touchdowns last week. "I have to watch him. He's one of biggest [pranksters] on the team. So I have to watch my back around Chuck."
Playing against the Ravens' defense will be no laughing matter.
Batch, a native of suburban Pittsburgh, faces a Baltimore defense ranked No. 1, allowing just 244.3 yards per game. The Ravens also are No. 1 against the pass at 116.7 yards per game.
Quarterbacks Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets and Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals could not produce a touchdown against Baltimore. In Week 3, Seneca Wallace and the Cleveland Browns (0-3) had moderate success that Batch could build on. Wallace completed 18 of 24 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown, and Cleveland's running game amassed 173 yards.
Pittsburgh's 31 offensive points under Batch last week were the most the team has scored in 2010. Tailback Rashard Mendenhall (143 yards rushing) was solid against Tampa, and Batch wants to keep that momentum going.
"We felt offensively we were letting this team down," he said. "We were winning in other phases, especially with the defense. But we weren't holding up our end."
Lately, the Ravens have caught a couple breaks in this rivalry.
After losing three straight to Pittsburgh in this series, this will be the second time in three games Baltimore faces the Steelers without Roethlisberger. In Week 12 last season, Baltimore beat the Dixon-led Steelers in overtime, 20-17. But the Ravens say they will not overlook Batch on Sunday.
"It's different when you’re going against a backup that might be a young guy or a rookie, like most backups," Baltimore linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "The fact he's been in the league for a long time, he's a veteran guy, he's got a lot of starts under his belt. So you can't look at him the same as you would a guy out of college or something like that."