Batch and Dixon ready if Big Ben can't play
By Mike Bires firstname.lastname@example.org
| Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011 7:44 am
PITTSBURGH -- On Wednesday as the franchise quarterback hobbled around team headquarters with a painful-looking limp, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon practiced. They don't know if they'll play Monday night. But both claim they'll be prepared for the challenge.
"Yes, I'll be ready to go," Batch said.
"I'm so ready," Dixon said. "I'm so ready to prove to this team once again that I'm able to get things done if it does present itself."
As Batch and Dixon ran the offense at Wednesday's practice, Ben Roethlisberger could only watch. Since suffering a high ankle sprain a week ago today in a 14-3 win over Cleveland, Roethlisberger has worn a walking boot as he continues to rehab.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger has worked "tirelessly" in the training room in hopes of playing in Monday night's showdown in San Francisco. Because of his reputation as one of the NFL's toughest QBs who's fought through injuries in the past, no one will count Roethlisberger out.
However, struggling through the second half of a game with an obvious limp like he did against the 4-9 Browns is one thing. Playing against a tough 49ers defense will be a much tougher test even if Roethlisberger is close to 100 percent recovered.
"He can be ready to play on a limited number of (practice) snaps," Tomlin said. "At the end of the week when we get into some situational football things, that's going to require some physical preparation in some form or fashion. (But) we're always going to be optimistic when it comes to Ben."
In the meantime, Batch and Dixon will continue to take turns at practice with the first-team offense.
Batch, the oldest player on the team at 37 years old, is officially listed as the backup. He's only played sparingly in three games so far. He took two snaps in the 24-0 rout of Seattle on Sept. 18. He played two series in the 35-7 rout of Cincinnati on Dec. 4. Last week against the Browns, he played two series after Roethlisberger was sandwiched by two Cleveland defenders.
So far this season, Batch's only statistics are two incomplete passes and two sacks.
Meanwhile, Dixon has yet to play in a game. In 11 of the 13 games, he wasn't even in uniform. He watched from the sidelines in street clothes as a game-day inactive.
"Charlie and Dennis are great players, but they aren't Ben," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "Ben is really special. So you have to change your game to adjust to what they do best.
"With Dennis and Charlie, we were 3-1 last year. I played with those guys. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in them. There's no drop-off in confidence. It's just how we play (as an offense) that will be a little different."
Last year when Roethlisberger opened the season on a four-game suspension, Dixon and Batch got two starts each. Dixon held his own in a season-opening win over Atlanta by completing 18 of 26 passes for 236 yards with an interception and a respectable 81.6 passer rating. But a week later, he was done for the season after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of a win at Tennessee.
In Week 3, Batch threw three touchdown passes and racked up a 106.5 rating in a win at Tampa Bay. But a week later, he posted a 57.8 rating in a home loss to Baltimore.
"Ben's a strong guy," Dixon said. "And I anticipate him being back for that Monday night game, especially with what that game means for us.
"But I think this team has total confidence in me and Charlie if Ben can't play or if he's knocked out (of a game). You like to have your franchise player in there. But if he won't be able to go, we'll have to be able to answer the bell."
"You don't want to be the guy that's going to let this team down," Batch said. "One thing that we've always been able to pride ourselves on is if one guy goes down, the next guy steps up. We've been able to do that over the course of the years and, at this point, it's going to be the same way if Ben can't go."
Read Mike Bires' latest "Steel Crazy" blog at www.timesonline.com