PITTSBURGH – There is likely to be an extra player in the ice tub for the Steelers Monday.
And it’s right where Charlie Batch wants to be.
The soon-to-be 38-year-old backup quarterback will make his first start of the season in place of injured Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich Sunday when the Steelers (6-4) visit Cleveland (2-8).
Batch, who turns 38 Dec. 5, expects to be sore Monday. He and the Steelers just hope he doesn’t become the third consecutive Pittsburgh quarterback to leave a game with an injury.
“You just know at this age, you spend a lot of time in the ice tub and try not to get that (old) feeling,” said Batch. “The good thing is, I’m not the only person in this locker room that has to feel that way. We have a bunch of 30-year olds on this team.”
But with Roethlisberger still out with a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib and Leftwich nursing a pair of fractured ribs, the Steelers can’t afford for Batch to be anything more than sore on Monday.
Even though the Steelers signed former New England backup Brian Hoyer Tuesday to serve as Batch’s backup, the Steelers will be counting heavily on Batch.
It’s been a continuing theme for Batch since he joined the Steelers as a backup quarterback in 2002.
He has appeared in 31 games, but only seven of those have been starts. The Steelers have gone 5-2 in starts by Batch, and, in many cases, he hasn’t had an experienced backup option behind him.
That will be the case against the Browns, as Hoyer will have only had three days of practice with his new team.
“I’ve been in this situation (before),” said Batch. “In 2010, there were only two quarterbacks at Tennessee and Dennis (Dixon) goes down in the first quarter and I had to go out there and I was the only quarterback for the next two and a half weeks.”
The question for the Steelers will be how effective their offense can be with its third starting quarterback in three weeks?
Pittsburgh has scored only 26 points in its last two games.
“I don’t think it will be a big issue,” said wide receiver Mike Wallace. “Chuck has been here. It’s not like he’s a guy coming in off the street. He’s a guy who has been around for a long time and has played a lot of games in this league.”
Batch has made 60 career starts, but few have been as important as Sunday’s for the Steelers, who are two games behind Baltimore in the AFC North and one game ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC wild-card race.
“At this point, we still have a chance to win the division,” Batch said. “We still have to keep up with everybody else at this point. But we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. That’s why we have to go up there and we have to figure out a way no matter what, to get this one in Cleveland.”
And for Batch, it’s an important game in that he doesn’t know how many starts remain for him in the NFL. Sure, the aches and pains that require a trip to the cold tub on Monday aren’t pleasant, but when you’ve played football all of your life, it also means Batch was playing.
“I’m always excited. These opportunities don’t come often anymore and here I am, getting up there in years and when you have this opportunity you cherish it,” Batch said.
Odds and end zones
Roethlisberger’s wife, Ashley, gave birth to the couple’s first child on Thursday, a son they named Benjamin Roethlisberger, Jr. … Roethlisberger, Leftwich, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (ribs), safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) did not practice for the Steelers Thursday. … Wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) and defensive end Ziggy Hood (back) were limited in practice.