F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column
Two steps backward, one giant leap forward
Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch congratulates running back Jonathan Dwyer after Dwyer’s 16-yard touchdown run during the second half against Baltimore Sunday.
BALTIMORE – Moments after Shaun Suisham’s game-winning field goal lifted the Steelers to an improbable 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger grabbed Charlie Batch in a bearhug and whispered into his ear.
A joyous and tearful Batch soaked in the moment as more and more teammates and coaches came over to give him congratulations.
Batch wasn’t divulging what exactly Roethlisberger said, but it was likely something along the lines of, “You did what nobody thought you could do.”
“When you look back at it, you’re putting your heart and soul into it,” said Batch, who turns 38 Wednesday. “You’re tired, trying to leave everything on the field.
“It took 60 minutes of challenging the offense to go out there and do something that nobody thought we could go out there and do.”
If anyone had any questions about whether or not Batch was giving it everything he had in this game, they need only look at his downfield block on Jonathan Dwyer’s 19-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Quarterbacks don’t usually do that, let alone those who are closer to joining the AARP than they are to playing in their next NFL game.
If this is indeed the last start in Batch’s career, then he made it one to remember.
When they put together the highlight film for the Steelers’ 2012 season, their win over the New York Giants Nov. 4 will be mentioned prominently. But the victory over the Baltimore will be talked about as this team’s defining moment.
The Steelers went to Baltimore and beat the Ravens on their home field, a place where the Ravens had won 15 consecutive games.
And they not only did so with their third-string quarterback, they also did it with a rookie right tackle in Kelvin Beachum – who was making his first career start – and without their best pass rusher, LaMarr Woodley.
If that wasn’t enough, top cornerback Ike Taylor left the game with a sprained ankle on the second play after breaking up a pass.
Despite all of that, the Steelers dug deep and found a way to win.
Baltimore will still win the AFC North title. With a two-game lead with four games remaining, the Steelers lost their chance to win the division by losing to the Ravens and Browns the previous two weeks. But the Steelers fired a shot across the bow of the rest of the AFC. Though they will likely be headed to the playoffs as a wild card – assuming they make it – the Steelers will be a team to be reckoned with.
That wouldn’t have seemed possible following last week’s 20-14 loss in Cleveland, a game in which the Steelers turned the ball over an incredible eight times. Now, however, anything looks possible with Roethlisberger likely to come back Sunday against San Diego.
“We just wanted to be playing our best ball in December,” said linebacker Larry Foote. “We know the division is probably out of reach, but we just want a ticket to the dance. We want to start stacking wins and get into the playoffs.”
If they can do that, as the Steelers showed Sunday, anything is possible. The Steelers won’t be the favorite to win the conference title, but they should be in the conversation despite having to go on the road.
The defense is playing arguably better than any other in the NFL and, if Roethlisberger returns healthy, this team will have one of only three quarterbacks in the AFC who have won a Super Bowl.
“All we want is a spot in the tournament,” said defensive end Brett Keisel.
They took a large step in the right direction – after two steps backward in the previous two weeks – to assuring that.
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at email@example.com.