Frustration grows on South Side

Clock ticking on Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin's decision on what to do next week at quarterback.

PITTSBURGH – Charlie Batch's silky smooth performance Sunday night in Denver may have put him back in the quarterback derby, or it may not.

Either way, the veteran was uncomfortable talking about it.

"Seriously," he explained to a group of reporters before answering their questions, "talk about me and it's fine. But if we start talking about anything else, I'm not talking."

So Batch was then asked if he felt he threw his hat back into the ring with his performance Sunday.

"We're not talking," he said abruptly.

And then Batch looked at the TV cameramen.

"We can cut it off," he said. "Seriously, cut it off."

The good-natured Batch eventually relented and answered a series of questions, but clearly the mood's a bit tense on the South Side these days.

"These questions really are for Coach (Mike) Tomlin to answer," Batch said at one point. "Nobody knew going into the situation and nobody knows now, and here we are two days from playing a game. We just don't know."

Nobody seems to know. Maybe not even Tomlin, who an hour after practice was seen peddling a 10-speed on the street outside the Steelers' practice facility. No one could tell whether he was mumbling to himself or not, but the fact remains Ben Roethlisberger will be gone for at least four games and his replacement is a mystery.

Even Byron Leftwich – considered the slam-dunk replacement quarterback throughout training camp – has received fewer first-team reps in preseason games than Dennis Dixon. But Leftwich isn't fazed by it.

"I'm fine with where I am with the offense, where I am with the guys, everything like that," he said. "To be honest with you, we all would love to play a lot, but it's a unique situation that we're in. I understand the circumstances so it's my job to be ready and prepared and I've been doing that."

Would Leftwich need to play the majority of Thursday night's preseason finale if he'll indeed start the opener?

"I don't believe so," he said. "I don't think I need 40, 50 snaps to go out there and have a chance to play well."

Batch said much of the same, but he's more concerned about his chance of making the 53-man roster.

As for winning the starting job, Batch may have played better than any quarterback not named Roethlisberger on Sunday, but it's unlikely a coach would reverse the plans he's had since the end of spring workouts.

Right?

"A coach can do whatever he wants," said wide receiver Hines Ward.

But would a coach have the courage to admit his plan was a bit askew from the start?

"I don't know," Ward said. "It's very tough. It's frustrating sometimes. You'd like to have someone solidify the position, go with it, and not think twice about it. But the competition's too tight. Hopefully on Monday we'll know our starting quarterback."

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