View Full Version : Starkey: Batch back-to-back makes sense

12-25-2011, 09:06 AM
Starkey: Batch back-to-back makes sense

By Joe Starkey
Sunday, December 25, 2011

No, it wasn't pretty. It was just needed.

The Steelers remained very much alive for a division title and the first-round bye that would go with it by whipping the St. Louis Rams, 27-0, on Saturday.

Winning any game without Ben Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley and Maurkice Pouncey -- and using your third-string center (Trai Essex) most of the afternoon -- is a feat worthy of respect. It's also a testament to Mike Tomlin's favorite saying.

All together now: "The standard is the standard."

That in mind, the big question of the week will be: Should Roethlisberger or Charlie Batch start Sunday at Cleveland? A win there, combined with the real possibility of a Baltimore loss at Cincinnati, will give the Steelers the AFC North title.

If Roethlisberger is unable to practice vigorously this week -- if he's anywhere close to the same bad shape he was in at San Francisco -- Batch should be the choice. The Batch of yesterday was more capable than the Ben of the previous Monday night.

Granted, it was against bad competition, but Batch was 15 of 22 for 208 yards. He looked fairly mobile. He didn't make any killer mistakes. He got better as the game went along.

"We've won games with Charlie in the past," Tomlin said. "If need be, we'll win games with Charlie in the future."

Next Sunday would make sense, unless Roethlisberger regains some of his mobility.

"Right now, I don't know," Batch said. "I thought I was going to start last week. Would I want to start? Absolutely."

In the meantime, observations from a Christmas Eve game that at least one man -- and maybe only one man -- will remember past Tuesday ...

That man would be Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who now owns the franchise's all-time single-season record for all-purpose yardage with 2,048. Maybe you've noticed the Steelers have had some pretty good players over the years.

"It's amazing," Brown said. "It's such a prestigious franchise. For me to go down in history, I'm just thankful."

Brown made the play of the game, to boot. He must have covered 40 yards to make a textbook hit on Rams punter Donnie Jones, who looked like a sure bet to get the first down on a fake punt. Brown dived into Jones' legs to stop him a yard short at the Steelers' 35. Troy Polamalu couldn't have done it better.

Is there anything Brown can't do? On the ensuing series, he took the ball on an end-around and was ready to pass -- I'm sure he would have completed it -- but he pulled in the ball and made a spectacular, weaving, 8-yard run. Brown has earned everything he's gotten. Tomlin has called him as hard a worker as there is on the team.

Yeah, Brown slipped to create an interception later in the drive. He got up and made the tackle, didn't he?

Batch got the crowd going early in the game with a positively Ben-like play. He miraculously eluded two defenders, scrambling out of trouble and lofting a pass to Rashard Mendenhall, who gained 37 yards. Batch is now 5-2 in seven starts since joining the Steelers in 2003. I also liked that he took responsibility for his interception, even though it wasn't his fault.

One Steelers star who appears to be healthy going into the playoffs is Polamalu. He made two fabulous tackles on Steven Jackson behind the line of scrimmage, including one on 3rd-and-3 in the fourth quarter, which forced a Rams field-goal attempt.

Clearly, the Steelers are attempting to get Hines Ward to 1,000 catches any way they can, including a shovel pass out of the shotgun. He needs five catches at Cleveland. I'm betting he gets them -- even if it takes four shovel passes on the final four plays.

Good to see Mendenhall back in form, at least for a day, rushing for 116 yards. His battered offensive line played well, although it was only the Rams. Make no mistake, Mendenhall and the men in front of him want to run more. "We've been waiting for a day like this," Mendenhall said.

I suppose Woodley was "fatigued" again, right? He's hurt. So sit him until the playoffs.

Every time Shaun Suisham makes a long field goal -- like his 49-yarder in the third quarter -- I wonder what would have happened had Tomlin let him kick one from 47 yards late in the Ravens game at Heinz Field. My guess is they'd have the division clinched. Suisham has made kicks of 49, 51 and 48 yards since that night.

Is it just me or should Roethlisberger GET OFF HIS INJURED ANKLE? What is the purpose of having him in uniform, limping out for the coin toss, limping around for several hours on a cold day, when he isn't playing football? I'm no doctor -- medical school seemed like it would be too easy -- but I have to believe it's not recommended that somebody with a high-ankle sprain walk on it all day.

Given what happened in San Francisco, with Roethlisberger playing to the bitter end, I half expected Tomlin to send him in to run a Wildcat package in the second half.

Joe Starkey can be reached at jraystarkey@gmail.com or .

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12-25-2011, 01:09 PM
• Every time Shaun Suisham makes a long field goal -- like his 49-yarder in the third quarter -- I wonder what would have happened had Tomlin let him kick one from 47 yards late in the Ravens game at Heinz Field. My guess is they'd have the division clinched. Suisham has made kicks of 49, 51 and 48 yards since that night.

Suisham is 6/10 on FGs from 40 to 49 yards, including the one he kicked yesterday against the Rams. It's always easy for journalists to second guess coaching, especially in losses, but if I'm Tomlin, and I'm facing a 4th and short from around the 30 yard line, there's no way I'm putting the game in Suisham's hands to win it for me. That was the right call, even though the outcome of the game was bad.

12-25-2011, 01:39 PM
I'm not sold on sitting the starters again. We we're hot before the bye-week and ever since we've been a bit sluggish. All except for that Bengals game has been a fight to the finish. I think maybe the first stringers should see a little action to avoid going into the playoffs out-of-sync.

12-25-2011, 07:33 PM
Ben and Pouncey should sit.. Steelers are in the playoffs they need their best players 100%.

12-25-2011, 07:41 PM
First of all I would like to point out that Suisham sucks and we need a kicker than can hit from 50+ yards, that would add a whole new offensive threat. As far as resting bigben again.... I think we should only rest him if he is in horrible shape like he was last week. Remember the first game of the season when he was "rusty" that's the LAST thing we need is 7 turn overs in round one of the play offs. I think if he's in any condition to play he should just to keep him in the flow of things, resting pouncey until the playoffs is a no brainer in my opinion, we need him healthy, that hurt us in the SB last year.