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Making only his fifth start in nine years with the Steelers Sunday, QB Charlie Batch gave Pittsburgh's offense a needed lift, throwing three TD passes, including 46- and 41-yarders to speedy Mike Wallace, in a 38-13 win.
Batch, 35, was fourth in the pecking order for practice work for much of the summer as the Steelers tried to get Ben Roethlisberger prepared to rejoin the team after his four-game suspension to start this season while also readying Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. But an injury to Leftwich at the end of the preseason and an injury to Dixon in Week Two gave Batch a chance to make his first start since 2007, and Batch delivered impressively.
"Hats off to a lot of people, but you really got to tip a hat to Charlie Batch," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said after the win at Tampa Bay. "What he was able to do for us today. He played like a veteran. This guy hasn't had a lot of opportunity, not only in recent years, but recent days, weeks, or months. He didn't blink. He has been a consummate professional and team player. Good things usually happen to those kind of people."
Wallace, who had three catches for 100 yards, remarked that Batch "was playing like he was 25 years old again. I told him he looked rejuvenated. He rejuvenated his career, so maybe we could squeeze about five or six more years out of him."
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Batch's performance wasn't flawless; he threw two interceptions, and his second TD to Wallace could have been picked by Buccaneers CB Aqib Talib. But considering the circumstances, it was excellent, and his ability to successfully throw downfield bolstered an offense that has had to lean heavily on the run this season.
At 3-0, the Steelers enter the final game of Roethlisberger's suspension with a chance to put some distance between themselves and 2-1 Baltimore, which had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland last week. What's more, RB Ray Rice suffered a knee contusion in the victory. The Ravens' defense is without FS Ed Reed (PUP list — hip) and has had problems stopping the run, allowing 127.7 yards per game.
Batch seems likely to make one more start. Then comes the Steelers' bye week and the return of Roethlisberger. At worst, the Steelers will be 3-1. The Steelers' dominant defense has been the catalyst for this strong start, but the offense stepped up Sunday, a positive development as Pittsburgh readies to face a tough divisional foe.