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Batch keeps Steelers in the hunt

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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BALTIMORE

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch turns 38 this week, although in the wake of a 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday he said he doesn’t expect to do much to mark the occasion.

“It’s on Wednesday, so I’ll be working,” Batch smiled.

Thanks in large part to Batch, who led a 51-yard drive to set up a game-winning Sean Suisham 42-yard field goal as time expired, it won’t just be busy work for the Steelers, either. A week after Batch committed three of Pittsburgh’s eight turnovers in a loss to the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh exited M&T Bank Stadium with hope (and a 7-5 record).

“A lot of people wrote him off,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “Nobody in here did. Charlie has been with this team 11 years and there is a reason for it. They just don’t keep people around just because. He has to prove week in and week out that he should be here. He stepped in before and won. He did it again tonight.”

For much of Sunday, it looked like the Steelers would fall to 0-3 minus starting quarterback Ben Roethsliberger and the Ravens would run their home winning streak to 16 games (including playoffs).

Then came a fumble by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, forced by Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison and recovered by defensive end Ziggy Hood at the Baltimore 27. Batch, who had been intercepted by Ravens cornerback Ed Reed in the end zone on the Steelers’ previous possession, needed only four plays to find tight end Heath Miller for a 7-yard TD pass to tie the game, 20-20, midway through the fourth quarter.

“We knew he was going to come in and manage the game,” Miller said. “Obviously, he’s been through it all. He’s seen and done everything. We have the upmost confidence in him.”

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Not that the Steelers won’t be happy to get Roethlisberger back. Roethlisberger could return as soon as next Sunday’s game against San Diego.

Batch, while inconsistent early, outplayed Flacco — a quarterback more than a decade his junior — in the second half and finished with 276 yards through the air. Batch was 25 for 36 one touchdown and one interception.

Flacco, who will get his share of the blame for why the Ravens didn’t clinch a playoff berth when given a chance on Sunday, was 16 for 34 for 188 yards with a one touchdown and an interception.

“It’s not surprising at all. Maybe a little,” Reed joked when asked about Batch’s performance.

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Batch was hardly flawless as he worked behind a reshuffled offensive line. He missed an open Mike Wallace in the end zone late in the first half and had a couple other passes sail on him. Batch also fumbled once, although the Steelers were able to maintain possession.

Granted, Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders didn’t do Batch any favors with a third-quarter fumble. Sanders had just caught a pass across the middle and looked primed for a touchdown when he coughed the ball up untouched, a fumble Reed recovered.

“That was a really tough one,” Batch said. “Emmanuel really took it hard. He felt that if he didn’t drop the ball, it’s probably a 70-yard touchdown.”

Credit the Steelers defense — which lost cornerback Ike Taylor to an ankle injury early in the game — for making Batch’s late-game push possible. Sunday marked the return of five-time All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, who hadn’t played an entire game since the season opener because of a calf injury.

“I feel great,” Polamalu said. “Thank God I made it through today.”

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The Steelers’ playoff hopes did as well. Pittsburgh’s final games come against San Diego, Dallas, Cincinnati and Cleveland with all but one of those games (Dallas) at home.

With any luck, Batch won’t be seen the rest of the season if Roethlisberger gets (and remains) healthy. And since he’s on a one-year deal currently, this could have been the last game of an NFL career that began with the Detroit Lions in 1998.

“I think every game I go out there, I look at it that way,” Batch said.

Tagged: Ravens, Steelers, Charlie Batch, Ed Reed, Ike Taylor, Joe Flacco, Emmanuel Sanders

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