Batch eyes bigger opportunity with Steelers

Can't you just see the record book five years from now?

First Touchdown Pass Thrown: Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers, August 24, 2002

You know it'll happen that way.

It seems that those pesky former Lions always have a way of coming back to torment their old team. But for former Lions Quarterback Charlie Batch, going home to play in front of his Homestead, PA friends and family is much sweeter than worrying about what will happen in an exhibition game two months from now.

"It wasn't about the money. It was an opportunity to play for Coach [Bill] Cowher and come back home," said Batch. "You can also get a ring, that's something I haven't been able to do."

Getting the respect of the coaching staff and the front office was also something Batch was unable to do in Detroit following the departure of former head coach Bobby Ross.

From the day Matt Millen was named President and CEO of the Lions, right down to June 3, when he was released by the franchise from his 4-year $12 million contract extension, Batch never got anything, but bad vibes from the new Lions regime.

In fact, after just one game starting in new head coach Marty Mornhinweg's west coast offensive system, Batch was benched in favor of Ty Detmer, a player the Lions acquired for a fourth round draft pick on the eve of the season opener. Detmer went on to throw seven interceptions in his first  appearance as a Lion. Shortly thereafter, Batch was re-inserted into the starting lineup until an injury shelved him for the final four games.

While that might have been vindication for some players, Batch knew, no matter what he did, he didn't figure into the Lions long-term plans.

"We weren't surprised. That's something we knew last year," he said. "We knew the team would be dismantled." But fortunately for Batch, the front  office had already been dismantled, including former director of pro-personnel Kevin Colbert, now Steelers Personnel Director and Ron Hughes,  former Lions personnel director, now pro-personnel director for Pittsburgh.

These were the guys who had convinced Bobby Ross that there was a winning quarterback right down the road, in Ypsilanti, not Ann Arbor worthy of moving up in the draft to acquire. These were the guys who felt that Eastern Michigan's Batch would be a better quarterback than University of  Michigan standout Brian Griese, who Detroit passed on and who was later taken by the Denver Broncos.

Now here were Hughes and Colbert, in a situation to bring Batch into the fold, despite having just given former XFL quarterback Tommy Maddox a five-year contract with a $500,000 bonus. Once Batch was sure their interest in him was genuine, it was just a matter of signing a contract. New Orleans, Houston and Jacksonville never really had a chance.

Batch, who has never had a quality offensive line in front of him in Detroit, will now have that AND a quality running game with both Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue available in the backfield.

Now hold on just a second, Batch is the BACKUP.

Kordell Stewart is the starter.

Batch isn't going to do much more than hold a clipboard, right?

Don't count on it. Batch can play. He is an accurate passer when he has time. With a running game at his disposal, Batch will be a much more accurate passer than Kordell Stewart. Despite playing with far fewer weapons that Stewart, Batch has a slightly higher passer rating than Stewart, a  slightly better percentage of completions and has thrown fewer interceptions per season.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Steelers don't get off to a fast start that Batch doesn't become the starter. And Stewart had better not get hurt. Batch is in this to win the starting job. "That's what happens with competition. Everyone's level is going to be raised," said Batch. You have to play your best. We're all going to be in the same scenario."

Notice the phrase "we all", that includes Stewart, who Batch had previously said that he understood would be the starter.

Yep, coming back to Detroit will be sweet, but going home is sweeter still.

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