To the most violent team go the spoils

Charlie Batch's last start against the Ravens turned into his only loss as the Steelers' starting quarterback. Today's a new day.

PITTSBURGH – In his nine seasons with the Steelers, quarterback Charlie Batch has started only five games.

Specifically, that's been one start every 26.2 games.

But Batch usually makes the wait worth the while, since he's won all but one game. And it's that game he had to talk about this week.

"Those were different circumstances," Batch said of the loss at the end of the 2007 season in Baltimore. "That was almost like a preseason game."

Against the Ravens that day, the Steelers, with the division already clinched, rested Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Willie Parker, and of course Ben Roethlisberger.

They also pulled several starters at halftime, but Batch threw for more yardage – 218 – than in any of his other starts with Pittsburgh. Yet, the Steelers still lost, 27-21.

Batch said he refuses to place an asterisk beside the L in his ledger, nor does he believe a win today against the Baltimore Ravens would make up for it.

"It's like asking if beating Baltimore a second time took away the loss to them the year we went 15-1," he said. "We beat everyone on our schedule that year, but at the end of the day, statistically, that loss was still there.

"It sure would feel good, though," Batch added with a devious chuckle, "particularly since it's the Ravens."

Even the most mild-mannered Steelers feel that way about today's AFC North Division showdown at Heinz Field. Troy Polamalu said, "It'll be decided by who's more violent in the fourth quarter," and Gentleman Max Starks said, "It's about who's the more physical and who's the more violent."

There's been plenty of violence in this series, a series the Steelers have dominated of late. They've won five of the last seven meetings, with the Ravens only winning their two games against backup quarterbacks.

Batch will be looking to change that trend for the Steelers today with a running game that's produced the best three-game grouping of Rashard Mendenhall's NFL career and a defense that's allowed the fewest points in the league.

Of course, the Steelers are without Roethlisberger and noted Ravens-killer Santonio Holmes this time around, but Batch is coming off a performance in which he threw 3 touchdown passes, 2 of which went deep to Mike Wallace, who's replaced the departed Holmes.

"We said they were going to be a very good team whoever plays quarterback for them," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "That's been proven last year and I don't think anyone in football is too surprised by it. I think the fans maybe sometimes get caught up with a guy or two, but that is a good team and that is why they are doing well."

The Ravens are down "a guy or two" as well, with safety Ed Reed and cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb on various injury lists. They'll also be using a running back who figures to be less than 100 percent in Ray Rice, who suffered a deep bone bruise late in last Sunday's squeaker against the Cleveland Browns. Rice is the only back to have gained 100 yards against the Steelers in their last 41 games, counting the playoffs.

Rice, in Game 15 last season, gained 141 yards on 30 carries, but the Steelers won, 23-20. Earlier in the season, Rice had burned the Steelers as a receiver out of the backfield in beating the Dennis Dixon-led Steelers, 20-17, at Baltimore. He's questionable this week, but expects to play.

"We've just got to stay gap sound," said Steelers linebacker James Harrison. "The one big game he had we were out of position a lot and didn't wrap him up."

In that game, Harrison's shoulder hurt so much that he couldn't wrap up. He was a one-armed player down the stretch, but is healthy this season and will be needed to pressure a Ravens passing attack that's since added receiver Anquan Boldin, who promised Ravens fans on the day he signed that he was ready for Pittsburgh.

"That's no big shocker," defensive end Brett Keisel said when told about Boldin's declaration. "Terrell Suggs wore a shirt to camp a few years ago that said ‘We want Pittsburgh.' It's that type of rivalry. It's what football's all about."

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