Pittsburgh Steelers football is a way of life around these parts. Their fans travel well. Just look at all the Terrible Towels that were flying in Tampa. We’re nicer, too. You’d never see us throw snowballs at Santa Claus. If you happen to be travelling, you can usually find a Steelers bar in any town across America to watch a game. For a team to have such a nationwide presence it’s hard to believe that The Steelers were not picked to be America’s Team. Actually, they were. Art Rooney turned down the honor. He said, “We’re not America’s Team. We’re Pittsburgh’s Team.” That they are. The fact that so many Pittsburghers had to leave after the collapse of the steel industry makes for a widespread fan base. A lot of displaced Pittsburghers now live in cities all around the country and have carried their love for the six time Super Bowl champs with them. They passed it on to their children, who are now passing it on to their children. Steelers Nation may look Red White and Blue but they bleed Black & Gold.
Steeler fans have loved the team through the lean years, and contrary to their trophy case and record since the 70s, the Steelers were an awful team for the first 40 or so years. And regardless of what issues come up, deep down our love of a team is greater than any individual player’s faults. It’s no surprise that The Steelers are still 3-0 despite losing two quarterbacks to injuries and one to suspension. The team rallies around itself and patches up the holes left in the wake of injury. They are like liquid, able to fill a container with no empty space. The defense has proven their worth over these past three games and it should be noted that having Troy Polamalu back on the field has added a much needed line of defense.
But, how quick we are to forget that in the early weeks of the year, perhaps beginning at training camp, one of their own was considered a lost cause. Charlie Batch has been with the Steelers since 2002, always in a backup capacity. Regardless to being prone to injury, a game in the hands of Batch has always been considered manageable and winnable. Batch has the poise and the wisdom of a veteran and is not likely to fall apart under pressure. When it was said that Byron Leftwich was rejoining the Steelers, some asked, “What about Batch?” With Ben as the starter and Byron competing with Dennis Dixon for the number two spot, that leaves Charlie up in the air. Will he be cut? Can he compete, at the age of 35, for a spot on the depth chart? Why is the man, who has been number two since Ben Roethlisberger became the starter, suddenly on his way out?
“He’s 35 and prone to injury.” That’s the party line. Yes, Batch has suffered a lot of injuries in his years. But, then again, look at how many times he has had to fill in because Ben was injured. So, let’s not look at how prone to injury Batch is, let’s look at how prone he is to coming in when needed and doing what has to be done. In most cases, he wins. In fact, he Batch Slapped the Buccaneers, throwing for 186 yards, rushing for 24 in a 38-13 win with three TDs, two interceptions, and no sacks giving him a 106.5 passer rating. Not bad for a guy who was staring down a pink slip.
If I was given the choice of who I would want on the back of a Steelers jersey, Batch would be a close second. The first choice would be Troy and duking it out for the second spot would be Charlie and Jerome Bettis. Charlie would probably win out because he is a home town boy. He is a true Pittsburgher. He is reliable. He is dependable. He is an all around class act. During halftime he goes out and saves nun filled busses from going over cliffs, solves the economy, feeds homeless, reads to blind children, and then comes back refreshed for the second half. He should have had to fight for a spot on this team.
In fact, he didn’t. In training camp, Batch did not get as many looks as Dixon or Leftwich, probably due to the fact that Batch was a solid player with understanding of the playbook and would likely be third string in Ben’s absence. They also did not want to get him injured during camp and pre-season. Was there some psychic readings going on here? Also, the sports media all gave up on Charlie. The common theme was that Charlie’s too old and too fragile. He will not make the team. It’s a shame. I have said, time and time again, if our starting quarterback were to go down, I would want Charlie in to manage the game. I have that much faith in a 35 year old quarterback. I’m 35 and I don’t trust myself with a plastic knife, sometimes. So, when Byron Leftwich went down in preseason and Dennis Dixon went down in week two. Who was left? Charlie Batch.
Once again, that team cohesiveness comes into play. Where an offensive line would only need to give Ben enough time to make a play or pull one out of his ass, he is pretty good at protecting himself. Dennis Dixon is also a strong scrambler, usually relying on his feet more so than his arm. Now, with Batch in the game, the offensive line has a renewed commitment to protecting the QB. He’s the only we have left for two more weeks. And even then, he’s the backup. I say keep Charlie primed and ready to go. Ben will be undoubtedly rusty. He has practiced with the team since preseason. It is likely that his rhythm will be off as he hasn’t been put in real game decisions at full speed with the bone crushing defenses coming at him. It’s only fitting that his first appearance will be pretty much a tune up game against Cleveland. No worries there, right?
In my opinion, which coupled with $0.50 will get you half a Coke, this team will need Charlie Batch to make the playoffs. In fact, this team has the makings of being a seven times champion. When Dennis and Byron come back, it is problematic to justify Charlie’s spot on the team. However, I would think that if karma has taught us anything this season, losing Batch would be a big mistake. I would like to see Charlie go out a winner, responsible for at least three wins this season. I want to see him go out with a third Super Bowl ring, the biggest of any of the others. He should get to decide what it looks like. If you had to construct a personification of this team from the parts of the players on it, you would take Ben’s arms, Troy’s hair, Harrison’s backbone, Hines’ heart, Mendenhall’s feet, Hampton’s girth, Stark’s voice, LeBeau’s brain, Tomlin’s stare, Reed’s toe, Sepulvada’s shoulders and Batch’s will. It would be a very hairy and quite possibly ugliest thing alive, but you would never question its determination to give 110% every time, even if you sat it on the bench, all season long. In times of doubt and worry, the answer is clear. Natch Batch.