Reporting Matt Loede
BEREA, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Think the Browns are overlooking Steelers third string quarterback Sunday Charlie Batch and the Steelers offense?
The Steelers come to Cleveland Sunday with an offense that looks vastly different with Batch under center and not starter Ben Roethlisberger or even backup Byron Leftwich.
The 37-year-old Batch hasn’t thrown a pass in 2012, but showed last season his ability to step right in when he played on Christmas Eve, December 24th and went 15 of 22 for 208 yards in a 27-0 win over St. Louis.
“Facing Charlie Batch you have to understand he’s a veteran guy, he knows his reads and he knows where to go with the ball,” Browns LB D’Qwell Jackson said. “We have to be ready for it and play our defense.”
Batch also has a track record vs the Browns, as he played for an injured Roethlisberger in a game in Pittsburgh on a Sunday night in November in 2005.
All he did that night was go 13 of 19 for 150 yards and also he ran for a score in a Steelers 34-21 win over the Browns.
“I’ve seen it before, and I know it’s the case, veteran quarterbacks that have been in the league a long time find a way to come in and be very efficient,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s a veteran player amongst a very veteran team.”
The Steelers have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley, and some feel that Batch is more suited to Haley’s offense that even that of last Sunday’s starter in Leftwich.
Shurmur says he also thinks the Steelers offense is just a tad different from the one that he saw beat the Browns twice in 2011.
“I think their system is a little bit different from last year, you’re seeing more timing throws,” Shurmur said. “The ball gets out quicker.”
That could be a key for the 37-year-old, as getting the ball quicker means staying away from Browns pressure, the same pressure that got to Tony Romo in Dallas last week.
“He’s a good quarterback so I am sure they trust him,” Browns DE Jabaal Sheard said. “Their offense line has to protect him and maybe they will bring back more protection and play it safe but he can win the game and I am sure they are confident in him as well.”
Don’t look for Batch to try to make too many plays on his own, as he will lean on his core of players and more so his running backs with Jonathan Dwyer, Issac Redmen and Rashard Mendenhall to try to beat the Browns.
“They have a good rotation of guys, and their run scheme is good and their backs are very similar in a lot of ways,” Shurmur said. “They don’t really have to change what they do on offense.”
The Browns defense ranks 24th with 125.3 rushing allowed yards per game, so stopping the Steelers run will be a huge key Sunday.
Another reason for Batch to lean on his backs is the return of Browns CB Joe Haden, who missed last weeks game in Dallas with a strained abdominal muscle.
The Browns are 0-5 without Haden, but his return should give the team the hopeful spark they need to beat their rivals for the first time since 2009.
“We needed to perform just a little better, just make one or two extra plays,” Haden said. “This team (the Steelers), no matter who they got, are a veteran team, a team that’s won big games. You can never, ever stop playing against them.”
It’s a lesson that the Browns have preached all week, let’s see if it carries over when they see Batch under center Sunday.