Baron Batch's impressive rookie camp, in which he caught the coaches' eyes and became a real threat to crack the 53-man roster, is in danger of ending prematurely.
The rookie rusher injured his left knee during a play in which he burst through a hole untouched on a running play. It occurred towards the end of the final team scrimmage. He came up lame, clutching his left knee, and immediately began waving for assistance. A trainer checked it out before Batch was carted off the practice field, shaking his head along the way.
A prognosis from the team isn't expected until Thursday morning.
"It's tough," said fellow running back Rashard Mendenhall. "We're really not sure what's going on. He might be OK, but it's unfortunate. It's tough for him because you want to be out there, but these kinds of things happen. He'll bounce back."
INSIDE BACKERS SHINE: The inside linebackers dominated early in scrimmages, hassling the first and second-team offenses with quick pressure and tight coverage.
Two plays later, Byron Leftwich went hunting for Heath on the right side of the field, only to have the pass jumped by Stevenson Sylvester. Larry Foote then batted away another of Leftwich's passes before Sly capped it off with a successful blitz from the left side on Dennis Dixon.
The running backs took charge in the second scrimmage. Mendenhall ran for a long gain through the left side of the line. Batch broke a strong run of his own to the same side a few plays later, and Jonathan Dwyer followed it up with a big gain on a swing pass from Dixon.
POLAMALU v. BROWN: Troy Polamalu made an easy interception of a Roethlisberger overthrow during the 7-on-7 drill. Roethlisberger overthrew Brown by a good 5 yards, but Brown bounced back with a big gain against Keenan Lewis and then made a leaping grab in front of Niles Brinkley.
Both Leftwich and Dennis Dixon used their tight ends and H-backs in the drill. Undrafted rookie Weslye Saunders was the target of three out of four Leftwich passes. Dixon found new receiver Kenneth Moore and tight end Jamie McCoy before attempting a pass to David Johnson. Polamalu had a great break on the latter pass and nearly had his second pick of the drill.
FINAL SCRIMMAGE: While Batch's injury made sure the team's final scrimmage was a downer, there were some bright moments.
The offense opened with more trickery: a direct snap to Mendenhall, who didn't make it past the line thanks to Timmons. Rashard had a second crack a few plays later, this time on a standard handoff, but was stuffed by rookie Chris Carter and defensive end Ziggy Hood.
Batch's ill-fated run was bookended by two strong plays by Dwyer. He first turned a swing pass into a solid gain with a burst of speed that was absent early in camp. Dwyer's other attempt was a run up the gut that displayed the power for which the team originally drafted him.
FIVE THINGS I LEARNED:
1. A player who's quietly having a very good camp – which is fitting because he's a quiet producer in live action is well – is tight end Heath Miller. Soft, sweet hands, as always.
2. Best line of the day came from Mike Tomlin. After a deep kick by Swayze Waters sailed past the kick returners and out the back of the end zone, Tomlin said "Hey 5, that's a nice kick but we're working return!"
4. What stood out about Tyler Grisham today? He was once again adept at finding holes in zone coverages and sitting down in them, similar to what Hines Ward has been doing in the latter stages of his career.
5. At least the offensive lineman tried to keep the mood light after practice. What can be more entertaining than 300+ lb. men trying to field punts from a JUGS machine?