Pittsburgh Steelers running back Baron Batch is entering his third year in the league and with no guarantees that he will make the 53 man roster out of training camp later on this summer, he will have to prove that he can be more than just a special teams player.
Batch, the Steelers seventh-round draft pick in 2011, was forced to sit out his rookie year after suffering a torn ACL just prior to the first preseason game that year. He returned last offseason to make the Steelers 53 man roster primarily as a special teams player and emergency running back and wound up dressing for 12 games and playing almost 100 snaps on offense.
On special teams, Batch seemed to fit in well as he recorded four total tackles, but on offense, the Texas Tech product struggled running the football as he only gained 49 yards on 25 total carries.
Despite his inability to run well between the tackles in the Steelers man blocking scheme, Batch did show that he could pass protect in his limited playing time. As far as he receiving contributions last season, he only caught four passes for 31 yards and his drop of a sure touchdown pass from wide receiver Antonio Brown on a trick play against the Cincinnati Bengals in the Week 6 was unforgivable.
In late November, the Steelers needed a roster spot so Batch was waived and signed to the practice squad. Roughly three weeks later he was signed back to the Steelers 53 man roster and played in two more games before having his season end thanks to a broken arm suffered in the Week 16 loss to the Bengals.
With his surgically repaired arm now healed, Batch will have to show the Steelers coaching staff that he can be a threat to run the football in training camp. Being as new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. is expected to implement more zone blocking this year, that should work in favor of Batch, as it should provide him bigger running lanes which better fits his cut back running style.
Despite being a year removed from his ACL injury last season, Batch seemed to have problems trusting his knee initially, so this year in training camp he should be without limitations as he prepares to do battle with Le\’Veon Bell, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Curtis McNeal. The Steelers aren\’t likely to keep more than four running backs on their 53 man roster, so you can clearly see that he has his work cut out for him.