Batch helps Steelers stay unbeaten without Big Ben

The Pittsburgh Steelers insist they aren’t surprised to be

winning without Ben Roethlisberger.

”We knew we had the potential. We have some great talent on

this team,” receiver Hines Ward said after Sunday’s 38-13 victory

over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ”This team is not predicated on one

player. That’s why this is the ultimate team sport.”

Three-quarters of the way through Roethlisberger’s four-game

suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the

Steelers are 3-0 for the first time since 2007.

Each week, they’ve found a different way to win, with

35-year-old backup Charlie Batch taking advantage of his

opportunity to shine against the Bucs.

Batch, at one point No. 4 on the depth chart, threw for 186

yards and two touchdowns in his first start in nearly three years.

Rashard Mendenhall keyed a strong ground game with 143 yards on 19

carries, and Pittsburgh’s defense forced two more turnovers, had

four sacks and scored on Brett Keisel’s 79-yard interception

return.

The Steelers will try to go to 4-0 at home next week against

Baltimore.

”The standard for expectation doesn’t change for us,”

Mendenhall said. ”Nobody’s going to care if you lose a game

because somebody’s not here or somebody’s hurt. Those kind of

things happen.”

Batch threw TD passes of 46 and 41 yards to Mike Wallace, who

had three receptions for 100 yards. The Steelers were in such

control that he only attempted three passes after building a 28-6

halftime lead.

With Dennis Dixon starting the previous two games, Pittsburgh

scored one offensive touchdown. Batch led TD drives on the

Steelers’ last four possessions of the opening half.

”We felt offensively that we were letting this team down. We

were winning in other phases – special teams and defensively,”

said Batch, who completed 12 of 17 passes and was intercepted

twice. ”But we weren’t holding up our end.”

Batch’s teammates said they never doubted he could do the

job.

”Charlie knows this offense better than anybody,” Ward said.

”He’s a good, solid quarterback.”

Tampa Bay’s Aqib Talib intercepted Batch’s first pass of the day

to set up a 40-yard field goal, but Bucs fans – seemingly lost in

the sea of gold-clad Steeler supporters who gave Raymond James

Stadium the look and feel of Heinz Field – had little to cheer

about the rest of the way.

Josh Freeman led one long drive for Tampa Bay (2-1), however the

nearly 9-minute drive only produced a second-quarter field goal.

The Buccaneers finished with 303 yards total offense, but couldn’t

get into the end zone until backup quarterback Josh Johnson got

them there in the closing minutes.

Freeman was 20 of 31 for 184 yards and one interception before

being removed with the Steelers up by 32 points in the fourth

quarter. Rookie LeGarrette Blount scored Tampa Bay’s lone touchdown

on a 1-yard run – the first Pittsburgh’s defense has allowed on the

ground this season.

”That was a good team, and I think we learned a lot from it,”

Freeman said. ”They dominated us on the scoreboard, but at the

same time I feel like our team’s mentality walking away is that we

could’ve played with those guys. We just didn’t take advantage of

the opportunities that were presented.”

Pittsburgh threw a league-low 43 passes in its first two games,

beating Atlanta and Tennessee primarily by running the ball and

playing ballhawking defense. The Steelers forced seven turnovers

against the Titans and limited Chris Johnson to 34 yards rushing on

16 attempts, ending his streak of 12 consecutive 100-yard

games.

Batch mixed the pass with the run to keep the Bucs on their

heels, even reverting to the early days of his 13-year career when

he scrambled up the middle for 24 yards on third-and-6 to prolong a

67-yard drive that Mendenhall capped with a 3-yard TD run for a

14-6 lead.

”He played like a veteran. … He didn’t blink,” Steelers

coach Mike Tomlin said. ”He’s been a consummate professional and

team player, and good things usually happen for those kind of

people.”

Batch doesn’t have any illusions about where he’s headed once

Roethlisberger returns, yet he thought he sent a clear message to

the rest of the team.

”I felt I kind of made my case to say that if you need me,”

Batch said, ”I’m there for you.”