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Old 08-05-2009, 04:19 AM   #1
Galax Steeler
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Default Batch is set to play familiar role

And now, back to the Charlie Batch story. Where were we? Hometown kid, one misstep from taking over as quarterback of the Steelers.

Ask the New England Patriots and Matt Cassell how that can happen.

But Batch is no Cassell. For one, at 34 years old, Batch is no youngster anymore. For another, he broke into the NFL as a starting quarterback and played that role in Detroit long before coming home to Pittsburgh.

Batch also has come to training camp in his role as the Steelers' backup quarterback for years. He first did it in 2002 as the No. 3 quarterback, and eight camps later, he is still in Latrobe. Only Batch really never has had to do it. He was never forced into Cassell's position of having to take over a potential Super Bowl team for the entire season or a big chunk of it.

Batch contributed mightily to the Steelers' Super Bowl season of 2005 when he started two November games for an injured Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers won both (in Green Bay and against Cleveland). Without either of those victories, there would have been no playoff appearance that season, never mind a victory in Super Bowl XL.

Those opportunities alone have earned Batch his keep. He also started and won the Steelers' first game as reigning Super Bowl champs when they opened with a victory against Miami in 2006, days after Roethlisberger's appendectomy. It wasn't Batch's fault that they lost six of their next seven.

But Batch has played only briefly other than that, and he missed all last season with a broken collarbone that occurred in the preseason. Since then, Byron Leftwich helped the Steelers win two games last season for an injured Roethlisberger and then spurned a Steelers offer to sign with Tampa Bay as a free agent.

So the Steelers and Batch are status quo again, and the answer is: Yes, the Homestead native believes he can keep his team on track if anything were to happen to Big Ben.

"I'm totally confident I can go back in and do it," Batch said yesterday. "But, obviously, you have to go in there and prove it. So I'm making the most of these practices and I'm looking forward to the preseason games to have that opportunity again."

He might not admit it, but Batch was upset when the Steelers placed him on injured reserve last summer. His injury would heal in six weeks, but the Steelers decided they could not chance it and signed Leftwich as a free agent.

Batch spent all last season with the team, in the locker room every day, on the sideline during games. He kept up with the game by doing so. But, even after his shoulder healed, he was not permitted by NFL rule to practice.

"It's one thing to see it mentally and be there," Batch said, "but you have to have the physical reps to do that, and I'm looking forward to that."

Last summer, the Steelers promised Batch they would bring him back in 2009. He stood by quietly as they made a lukewarm effort that failed to keep Leftwich.

"Really, there wasn't anything to think because it wasn't me in that position," Batch said. "It was, more or less, will I be back here or not? The only thing I could do was go off their word when we talked last August that 'you'll have the opportunity to come back.' I just let everything play itself out."

So the déjà vu moment has Batch behind Roethlisberger with Dennis Dixon, in his second season, as No. 3 quarterback. That's how it was last summer until Batch turned a broken play into a run from scrimmage that the Philadelphia Eagles turned into a broken clavicle.

Coach Mike Tomlin said in the spring that it was possible for Dixon to overtake Batch as No. 2.

"Can I see it? No, I don't see it," Batch said. "But I think it's something if he has an opportunity, he may have it. But I feel I can go out there and do what I'm capable of doing. Then, we don't have to worry about that decision."

The ideal, of course, is for the starter not to get hurt. As the Patriots discovered last season, you cannot count on it.

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