Packers prepare for Batch

Injured Roethlisberger will not play against Packers

To get an idea of how long it's been since Charlie Batch last had a meaningful role in an NFL game, there are only two defensive players on the current Packers roster who were with the team at the time.

Well, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and possibly outside linebacker Na'il Diggs, who's questionable to play with a knee injury, will renew acquaintances with Batch on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won't play after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday. Thus, Batch will get his first start since late in the 2001 season, when he was at the end of an erratic four-year tenure with Detroit.

Despite a litany of troubles encountered by Batch against former division rival Green Bay in the past and Roethlisberger's near-infallible record, Packers defenders weren't jumping for joy over hearing the news of the quarterback change.

"They really weren't throwing the ball a whole hell of a lot to begin with anyways, so I don't think that's going to change our preparation any," safety Mark Roman said. "We've got to try to make them as one-handed as possible. We've got to take away something from them. That's the only way we're going to give ourselves a great chance to win."

So as the Packers took to the practice field Thursday afternoon, the emphasis remained on defending the Steelers' powerful running attack.

The Packers received another dose of good news when Pittsburgh declared bruising backup running back Jerome Bettis out for Sunday because of a knee injury. However, they still will have to contend with featured back Willie Parker, who has led the Steelers to 131.3 rushing yards per game - fifth in the league - and a beefy offensive line that Diggs rates as the best he and his teammates will see this season.

"These guys displace people pretty well. They knock you off the ball," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "I don't care how many people (a defense has) in the box, they knock you off the ball. What's happening is they're knocking people back, and there are people making the tackle, but they're making it 3 or 4 yards down the field."

Parker has burst onto the pro scene with three 100-yard games this season. The strength of the Packers' gradually improving defense under first-year coordinator Jim Bates has been its consistent ability to stop the run.

Green Bay ranks fifth in the league for average yards allowed per carry (3.4) and 10th in average yards allowed per game (100.9). Tampa Bay's Cadillac Williams, who churned out 158 yards in Week 3, is the only back to hit the century mark against the Packers.

The Green Bay defense, though, looks at Sunday's matchup as a better barometer of where it stacks up in the trenches.

"Yeah, we've had some success against the run, but this is a team that definitely brings some unique challenges," defensive end Aaron Kampman said of the Steelers. "These guys don't trick you too much. They pretty much say, 'Hey, this is what we're going to run. Stop us.'"

Should the Packers continue their staunch play and contain Parker as well as backups Duce Staley and Verron Haynes, the onus will be placed squarely on Batch to try to carry the offense with his rusty arm.

Although Batch went 3-3 as a starter against Green Bay from 1998 to 2001, the Packers more often than not devoured him. They intercepted nine passes and sacked him 18 times, including a career-high-tying seven in the 2001 season opener at Lambeau. Gbaja-Biamila had three of those sacks in Batch's last visit to Green Bay and dropped the quarterback once in the teams' second meeting later in the season.

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