If Charlie Batch was as durable as, say, Kurt Warner or Peyton Manning, you’d have to think he could have been a pretty good NFL quarterback, and his story might have been different. Instead, after a stint with the Lions and a reputation that can kindly be described as injury prone, he was destined for the life as a backup.
That’s included backing up Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox, Ben Roethlisberger and now Dennis Dixon. But when he’s gotten the chance, Charlie always impressed, perhaps never more so than Sunday against the Buccaneers.
After a “Oh, lord, here we go again,” pick on the second play from scrimmage, Batch did what he always does: manage the offense, complete the passes he should complete, and, to channel Hank Stram, matriculate the ball down the field. Save the interceptions to start and end the game, Charlie was clinical, including the first touchdown to Mike Wallace (the second involved a lot of luck but, hey, good teams are fortunate as well), a laser to Hines Ward, and a career-long scramble of 24 yards. And most amazing: Batch did it all without getting hurt.
And now, the Steelers are 3-0 without Ben Roethlisberger, an improbable scenario not even the most ardent fan would have supported three weeks ago. Whatever, here we are, Ben-less, undefeated and with the Ravens next on the schedule. I’ll take it.
Other random awesomeness from Tampa Bay:
* During the Steelers Lounge preview podcast, here’s what Gretz said he wanted to see from the Steelers Sunday: “Score early and go into Operation Shutdown.” The only way Pittsburgh could have followed that game plan more precisely was if Raul Mondesi Derek Bell showed up as an honorary coach on the sidelines. Because after the early pick, everything went the Steelers’ way. The running game dominated — even though we all knew it was coming — the offensive line had it’s best game of the season, and Chaz Batch played pitch and catch with his teammates.
* Just something to think about as we prepare for Big Ben’s return: if the Steelers’ offense, which, admittedly, looked like the 2000 Ravens in Weeks 1 and 2, was able to hang 31 points on a good Bucs defense with their fourth-string quarterback, imagine what they will be able to do once Roethlisberger returns. I did find the “WHERE IS THE OFFENSE?” mainstream media reactions last week a bit much, especially since we all knew that the offense’s job the first month of the season would be to avoid losing games. So far so good and then some.
Historically, Ben has needed a game or two before he returned to franchise QB form, but because he’s not coming back from injury — and he’ll have the bye week to prepare for a home game against the Browns — there’s every reason to believe that he’ll step in and be the guy we remember from 2009. Just something to keep in mind.
* I don’t want to dwell on this because I know some of you are Virginia Tech fans, and college allegiances run deep, so I’ll make it quick: in a shocking development, Cody Grimm was targeted early. He was in coverage on Wallace’s first touchdown reception, and he was also in the vicinity on Hines Ward’s TD catch. I bring this up not to call him out (or him … okay, that’s a lie), but to reinforce the fact that it’s hardly surprising that the Steelers would go after a rookie making his first NFL start.
* During the preseason I wrote a pro-youth movement post, suggesting that the Steelers should keep the young guys even if that meant cutting players like William Gay. Clearly, I based that on Gay’s performance last year, a forgettable season in which he moved from nickel back to starter and lost his confidence in the process. Thankfully, Mike Tomlin doesn’t consult me for personnel advice because Gay is back in the nickel and playing like it’s 2008. He’s been fantastic in the role, showing well in coverage, but also making open-field tackles and even registering a sack against Josh Freeman. So, yeah, my bad, Willie.
* At some point I think we’ve all wondered exactly where Antwaan Randle El fit in to this offense. I understand that he’s around as much for his veteran presence as for his playmaking ability. But I loved him in the Wildcat. It’s an obvious marriage, and he’s probably a better fit at the position than Dennis Dixon ever would have been.
* It was a cliche when I first heard it last year, but after watching Josh Freeman, he is a lot like Ben Roethlisberger. He’s big, fast, elusive, and he has a good arm. Unfortunately, the guys around him aren’t the 2004 or 2005 Steelers.
* I LOVE Gus Johnson.
* I also love James Harrison’s comments during the CBS pregame show: “Some people are now starting to jump on the Steelers bandwagon. We don’t need you.”
Alright, enjoy it, peeps. Because the Ravens are comin’ to town.