Prisuta: Finally, Charles in Charge

Charlie Batch showed Sunday the difference a veteran makes under center for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The pass fell incomplete but the play nonetheless revealed all anyone needed to know about Charlie Batch's state of readiness to quarterback the Steelers.

On third-and-11 from the Tennessee 46-yard line, just inside the two-minute warning last Sunday in Nashville, Batch was as masterful as he had to be in terms of recognition and execution. What resulted should have been a touchdown, not a punt.

Blame Mike Wallace for that, not Batch.

Initially, the Steelers were anticipating an all-out blitz when they broke the huddle prior to the play. Tight end Heath Miller lined up split right, outside of Wallace and Hines Ward, but Batch signaled Miller back into the formation pre-snap. Batch had wanted Miller there all along to help pass protect, but Batch also wanted the Titans to have to react to Miller's shift and communicate their adjustment amid the din LP Field had become.

Upon accepting the snap Batch detected a four-man rush and Cover 2 in the secondary, rather than the all-out blitz and zero coverage the Steelers had been expecting. His response was to locate Wallace running a deep post that would have safety Chris Hope backing up initially out of respect for Wallace's speed, then breaking hard on the ball on a tough angle.

Batch fired before Wallace made his break. The throw was strong an accurate. The ball and the receiver arrived where they were supposed to with spot-on timing at the Tennessee 19.

Wallace didn't secure the catch.

Hope was credited on TV for breaking up the play but Wallace actually bobbled the ball before Hope made contact.

It should have been a touchdown.

The same can be said for the perfectly-placed fade Batch lobbed to Ward that Ward dropped just before Jeff Reed's fourth field goal.

A couple of other should-have-been receptions that could have moved the chains managed to elude Miller.

"We had some opportunities to make some plays for (Batch) we didn't make," coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday.

That's what Batch can bring to the Steelers' offense. That's the type of read-and-react execution Batch performs with by-the-numbers precision, the type Dennis Dixon still hasn't mastered.

That's what's been missing.

It'll be back against the Buccaneers whether Batch or Byron Leftwich is under center. Batch is in the "pole position," according to Tomlin, at the outset of this week's preparation.

But that's what you get from a capable veteran, and that's what Tomlin either overlooked or under-valued when he allowed his preseason infatuation with Dixon to influence his decision at QB when Leftwich turned up unavailable in advance of the regular-season opener. That could have been a critical mistake.

Thankfully, the Steelers have emerged 2-0 from Dixon's two not-quite-ready-for-prime-time starts. They did so in part because Dixon, to his credit, didn't completely melt down. But that said, they'll have the potential to do much more offensively against the Bucs than they did against the Falcons or Titans.

They shouldn't have to rely quite so heavily on a defense that's played with a sense of urgency through the first two weeks that suggested it was counting upon little or nothing from the offense because of the compromised situation at QB.

Because of Dixon's knee injury and subsequent surgery Tomlin has no choice but to go with one of his established vets rather than the preseason flavor of the week while the Steelers anxiously await the return of Ben Roethlisberger.

That's a decision that should have been made for Tomlin based on what transpired on Aug. 29 in Denver, when Dixon revealed his inadequacies and Batch established he's as capable as ever.

Imagine what Batch might accomplish if he actually gets a few practice reps with the first-team offense.

Better late than never.


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