Good things for those who don't whine

Dale Lolley reports from Tampa on the Steelers' 38-13 dismantling of the Bucs. These are his thoughts from the game:

TAMPA – So that's what real quarterback play looks like.

Nothing against Dennis Dixon or Mike Tomlin's decision to start him over veteran Charlie Batch, but there's certainly no question who the Pittsburgh Steelers should start next Sunday against Baltimore after watching Batch pick apart Tampa Bay in a 38-13 victory here at Raymond James Stadium.

Batch was far from perfect Sunday, as his two interceptions will attest. But he was also willing to take some shots downfield and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was comfortable enough to allow him to do so.

That's something we didn't see much of from Dixon in the game and a half in which he started.

Batch turned Mike Wallace into a deep threat once again, buying time in the pocket and allowing Wallace time to get deep on the Bucs not once, but twice.

(Batch) told me earlier in the week if we got that look, he was coming to me," said Wallace of his second touchdown catch. "He just threw it up and I went and made a play for him. When a quarterback shows that kind of trust in you, you want to make plays for them."

The Steelers also wanted to make plays for a guy, who, for all intents and purposes, was living on borrowed time on the roster just over a month ago.

Rumors surfaced in August that Batch's days as a member of the Steelers were coming to an end.

With Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Dixon getting most of the team's snaps as the Steelers prepared for life without Roethlisberger in the first month of the season, Batch was picking up the scraps. And there weren't many.

But Batch didn't listen to what was being said about him. And he didn't want to read that he was too brittle, too old, too whatever, to keep around.

The 35-year-old had been around the league long enough to know how quickly things can change.

"He's been a consummate professional, a good team player," said coach Mike Tomlin. "Good things usually happen for those kind of people. I think that's a lesson that a lot of young people in our locker room can learn from. Hopefully, they will."

Batch said he never went to Tomlin to discuss he situation because he understood it. Not that he liked it.

"I was the odd man out. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out," Batch said. "Training camp went along and I wasn't sure how it was going to play out. If I read what everybody wrote, I wouldn't be standing here right now.

"For me, I couldn't worry about it. If I started listening to it, I wouldn't have been able to sleep. I couldn't afford to do that. Then, when we broke camp, I just didn't worry about it, honestly."

His teammates certainly took notice and it made them want to play all the harder for Batch when he finally did get his chance.

"I'm happy for him," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "He got a game ball. To come in and finally get a week's preparation, he came in and we won this game."

* At 3-0, the Steelers appear to be playing with house money on where everyone thought they would be when they get Roethlisberger back from suspension.

Even the most optimistic out there couldn't have predicted they'd be 3-0 at this point, a game ahead of the Ravens in the AFC North standings.

That said, next Sunday's game is very important in terms of who will be the team to beat the rest of the way.

* While Batch's performance will be the one that everyone remembers from the game against Tampa Bay, Brett Keisel's run after picking off a deflected pass may have been the most memorable play.

The big man looked good running with the ball in his hands. He was patient, waited for his blocks to set up and even cut back to the middle of the field to make sure he got into the end zone.

* I liked what the Steelers did with their two plays with Antwaan Randle El at quarterback against the Bucs, even though both plays didn't work.

The two plays, a reverse to Mike Wallace for a 1-yard loss, and an inside handoff to Rashard Mendenhall that went for 17 yards, weren't game breakers. But they give Baltimore something else to prepare for going into next weekend's game.

The two running plays could also help set up a pass from Randle El out of the same formation.

* Speaking of set-up plays, I liked the Steelers opening the game by faking the handoff to Antonio Brown, who had gone for a touchdown on the same play when the ball was given to him by Mewelde Moore to open last weekend's game at Tennessee.

Again, it forces future opponents to wonder what the Steelers are going to do.

* Every offensive lineman on the Steelers' 53-man roster has now seen game action after Tomlin again rotated his linemen to keep guys fresh in Tampa.

The heat index was 100 Sunday and even though many players said it was hotter in Tennessee last week, they didn't need to run into the same problems they did last week with players cramping up.

Heck, even Troy Polamalu got some plays off - not that he used them to rest. That was Polamalu jumping up on the sideline to grab a Josh Freeman throw away, much to the delight of the crowd at Raymond James Stadium.

* While the focus of this game was on the offense, the defense deserves kudos for holding Tampa Bay to a field goal after Batch's first pass of the game was intercepted by Aqib Talib at the Pittsburgh 31.

Arians also deserves praise for not allowing that interception to deter him from allowing Batch to dial up Wallace on the deep passes.

It would have been easy to get gun-shy at that point - especially after the Steelers went three-and-out on their second series. But Arians stuck with the game plan, which called for plenty of play-action.

The Steelers figured the Bucs were going to bring the safety in to help stop the running game. That left Wallace one-on-one off of play action. And Wallace is going to win most of those battles.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)


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