As Charlie Batch stood at a podium in a sweat-soaked black T-shirt Sunday night, he took in the scene after quarterbacking the Pittsburgh Steelers past the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
The third-string quarterback, who will celebrate his 38th birthday Wednesday, might not be needed to make another start in his NFL career. But if that is the case, he will have fond memories of his final start.
Filling in for Steelers quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich, who are out with injuries but are expected to return as early as next weekend, Batch completed 25 of 36 passes for 276 yards, one touchdown and one interception as the Steelers rallied from 10 points down to beat the Ravens, 23-20. The Steelers' victory snapped the Ravens' 16-game home winning streak (which includes the playoffs).
"I've been in the league 15 years," Batch said. "I've been a starter in this league and the one thing you can't do is dwell on the past. It's a long season and no matter what, all I can ask for is another opportunity. Being a backup, you don't know when that's going to happen."
After throwing for just 57 yards in the first half — a sloppy two quarters in which he missed open receivers, including overthrowing Mike Wallace in the end zone at the end of the second quarter — Batch connected with receivers on 16 of his 20 second-half throws for 219 yards. He completed five passes apiece to four different receivers, including tight end Heath Miller, who had a game-high 97 receiving yards and a touchdown.
The 276 passing yards were Batch's highest total since 2001, dating back to his Detroit Lions days.
"It's not surprising to us. It may be to you, but not us," Steelers linebacker James Harrison said.
Down 20-13 early in the fourth quarter, Batch drove the Steelers 27 yards in four plays after quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked and lost a fumble. He found Miller near the right sideline inside the 5-yard line, and Miller twisted his body and dove toward the pylon as he went out of bounds, scoring a touchdown. A video review confirmed that the football touched the pylon before he hit the ground.
After a Ravens punt, Batch moved the Steelers into position for a game-winning field goal.
In a 12-play, 61-yard drive that took the final 6:14 off the clock, Batch handed the ball to his running backs and completed short throws and screen passes to Wallace and fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown.
He was hit hard by Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata while completing a third-down pass early in the drive. Batch lay on the turf for a moment before slowly getting up.
"I'll let you know tomorrow what it feels like," said Batch, who got good blocking from the Steelers' makeshift offensive line but had to use his legs to escape the pocket and extend a few plays.
Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger shoved Batch to the ground after he threw his final pass of the game to Wallace. That roughing the passer penalty put the Steelers in the red zone. And after a false start and three runs for no gain, Shaun Suisham made a 42-yard field goal as time expired.
"We have to finish," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. "We didn't do a good job of that today."
Batch also got in the way of Ravens cornerback Cary Williams on Jonathan Dwyer's 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, leading the back into the end zone with a downfield block.
"It shows you what kind of heart he has," Dwyer said.
And it sounds like Batch's heart is still in the game.
Batch hasn't officially said if he will return for a 16th NFL season next summer. He was asked if Sunday's performance might affect his decision.
"As long as I can play, I'm going to come back," he said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun