Steelers Quarterbacks: Evaluating Charlie Batch's Worth

So, after the Packer’s loss to the Browns in their first preseason game, I seriously considered writing an article about how all of Steelers Nation is rejoicing as the Packers fell to the Browns. I was going to write about how important it is to set a tone in the first pre-season game, and how the Packers are showing us that last year was a Cinderella story and they can’t even beat the Browns this year. I thought it would be funny. You get the gist. Just laugh now so I don’t have to actually write it.

On to more important things.

I am moving my regular Friday series of evaluating the Steelers Quarterbacks fighting for roster spots to today since I assume I will want to talk all about the Steelers second preseason game (the second most important game of the season…) Friday morning after the game.

Today we will take a look at Charlie Batch and how he fits in to the QB scene with the Steelers. There has been a lot of drama surrounding the Steelers QBs in the last few years. Charlie Batch came out last year, after being overlooked in favor of Byron Leftwich and then Dennis Dixon, and showed us why he’s the obvious #2 guy.

I spent my last article writing all about how Byron Leftwich is too injury prone to be considered a solid #2 guy (or even to be considered for the roster at all), but you all probably already know that you don’t become a backup QB by solid, consistent, injury-free play. Batch has not really been a beacon of stability when it comes to injuries either, having been injured in 3 of his 8 seasons with the Steelers (yes, 8 seasons). Batch spent the entire 2004 (knee) and 2008 (clavicle) seasons on IR, as well as part of the 2009 season after he was injured in the Chiefs game, the same game Big Ben came out with a Concussion.

All that being said, here are a few reasons why I believe Batch is the right #2 guy:

1. Mobility

Although Batch is no spring chicken, he’s now 36 years old, he is still considered a mobile QB. When Barry Sanders retired from the Lions while Batch was QB, Batch was asked to take on a bigger running role while that offense redefined itself. Batch has rushed 169 times in his career for 639 yards. That’s good for about 3.8 yards per carry. Not an overwhelming set of numbers, but good enough to consider the fact that he’s a mobile QB. The reason being mobile in Pittsburgh is so important is because of how shaky the offensive line has been for the last 6 seasons. We’ve all season how Byron Leftwich fairs with our offensive line. Not good. I assume someone like Peyton Manning, a QB God, would not have the same kind of success in Pittsburgh.

Batch’s role as a running QB also helps to explain a little better why he spent a little bit of time on the sidelines due to injury while he was in Detroit. Just look at any running QB and you’ll see that they are injured more often than most. Manning rarely leaves the pocket, and if he is about to get hit, he just falls to the ground. You don’t expect that body-saving mentality from a running QB, and therefore you deal with more injuries.

Batch has shown that he can move around if he needs to, and that his arm is just as strong as it’s ever been.

2. Decision Making

One of the more attractive things about Batch is his veteran decision making. He’s no stranger to starting in big games, and being in stressful situations, so he doesn’t make the same mistakes someone like Dennis Dixon might in a tight end-of-game situation. By no means is Batch perfect in these situations, he just shows us that we’ve got a better chance to win late in the game when he is behind center. The playbook is bigger when Batch is behind center. Since he’s been on the team since 2002, Batch knows the playbook better than anyone out there, maybe even including Big Ben. His time backing up Ben has been a lot of coaching, which tells you how much Batch knows the book. So, when Batch is called upon to step in, or even start, we know that we aren’t just confined to the run game and screen passes (like we were when Dennis Dixon started last season). More plays means more variety, means more that our opponents have to prepare for.

3. Past Play

With the Steelers, batch has some pretty impressive numbers. Batch started two games for Big Ben in 2005 when Ben was out with injury and went 2-0. That was the same season the Steelers made it in to the playoffs as a Wildcard and won every game to get the first Super Bowl victory since the 1970’s. In other words, without those wins, we don’t make the playoffs that year.

Batch also started the 2006 season after Big Ben’s emergency appendectomy (we’ve been through a lot with this guy) and threw for 209 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Batch also replaced Ben in week 7 that year throwing for 195 yards and 2 touchdowns that included a 70 yard bomb to Hines Ward.

When Batch was finally called upon last season after being overlooked twice, he threw for 3 touchdown passes and led the Steelers to a 38-13 win over Tampa Bay. He did not fair so well against the Ravens the very next game, but that loss came down on the shoulders of the Defense not being able to stop Joe Flacco and the Ravens. They still came within just a few plays of a 4-0 start to the season without Big Ben.

Short Term/Long Term

I mentioned the difference between the short term and long term interest in QB in my article about Dennis Dixon, but I feel like I should say it here as well. Basically, if we’re thinking short-term, Batch is the guy. He’s 36 years old, so if something terrible were to happen with Ben, Batch clearly is not the long-term solution. However, if we need to win a quick couple of games while Ben is injured (or suspended, each are equally likely to happen, I suppose) then Batch is the more knowledgeable guy who gives us the best chance to win.

Long term, I believe Dennis Dixon is the guy. Dixon gives us the best chance to be competitive down the road if something were to happen to Big Ben. Dixon is young, and still developing. He would need some time with the starters, and some time in pressure situations before he’d be good enough to take us the distance. For that reason, he’s definitely the guy to take us in to the future. BUT, it is also for that reason that I would make him #3 on the depth chart where we stand now.

All that being said, Big Ben is young enough now that it may be years before we ever see another QB step in a take his place for good. We almost lost Dixon to Free Agency this year, and I would not be surprise if we lost him before Ben is ready to give up the reigns. My analysis considers who we have at the moment, and no what-ifs.

Home Town Fav

Not that this really counts for anything, but Batch is a Pittsburgh native who has been a hometown fav since he joined the Steelers in 2002. I may be a little bias in this area, but I am a huge fan of Batch. In fact Kevin Colbert was the original person to draft batch in the second round for the Lions, so it’s no surprise that he ended up in Pittsburgh. Batch’s play speaks for itself, but being a Pittsburgh fav around the world helps.

We’ll see going in to the second game of the preseason where Batch stands in the eyes of Tomlin and the Steelers. Batch was the second QB to see action in preseason game #1. It seems as though Tomlin has been reading my posts…

Adam Meckler is a Steelers fan, writer, and collector. He’s an active musician in the Twin Cities, MN and around the world. Find Adam on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @AdamMeckler

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