Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was officially ruled out on the Friday injury report so that means that veteran Charlie Batch will be asked to do the unthinkable and beat the 9-2 Baltimore Ravens Sunday in their own backyard of M&T Stadium.
How big of task is it? The Ravens have won their last 16 games at home for starters and Batch has not beaten the Ravens in his two other starts since coming to Pittsburgh. Batch also might be playing behind an offensive line that consist of center Maurkice Pouncey making his first NFL start at left guard and a rookie seventh round draft pick making his first NFL start at right tackle in the form of Kelvin Beachum.
Need another disparaging nugget? Batch will turn 38 years old on Wednesday, and if my research is correct, he is the oldest offensive player in the league right now.
With all of the above said, it is not unthinkable that the Steelers could come away with a win Sunday in Baltimore. Improbable? Yes, but unthinkable? No. The Steelers defense held the Ravens offense to just 6 points two weeks ago and if not for a 63 yard punt return for touchdown by Jacoby Jones, a 32 year old Byron Leftwich just might have been credited with that quarterback win.
Batch might have an arm of a 38 year old, but his experienced mind is sharp as a tack. That tack looked rusty last week in the loss to Cleveland Browns, but his supporting cast of greasy-handed running backs certainly didn\’t help him out in that game. Not back-up-quarterback-friendly as head coach Mike Tomlin called it.
Batch now has another week of practice under his belt and that should help. How much? Let\’s just say that it can\’t hurt.
Make no mistake, for the Steelers to win Sunday in Baltimore it will take an entire team effort. Batch can\’t, and won\’t, throw for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. He won\’t lead the Steelers offense on multiple 70 and 80 yard drives resulting in touchdowns either, and it is unfair to ask that of him anyways. Keep in mind that he is a third string quarterback and a very old one at that.
What Batch is still capable of doing is leading an offense that can run the football well and this has been evidenced in his 5 wins as starter during his time with the Steelers. The most passing attempts that he has had in any of those 5 wins is 25.
The least amount of rushing yards that Batch has been supported by in any of those 5 winning starts was 146, so there is a magic number for offensive coordinator Todd Haley to shoot for on Sunday with Jonathan Dwyer making his third career start at running back.
The Steelers can\’t ask Batch to win this game on Sunday, only not to lose it. Is there such a thing in the NFL these days? There is if the Steelers defense and special team units come to play in Baltimore.
Sunday very well could be the last NFL game that Batch plays in his career. A win against the Ravens in their own house, as improbable as it might be, would be one hell of a way to go out. Should it happen, it very well could go down as his best win of his entire 15 year career. Even if the final score is 2-0.
Give them hell, Charlie.