Steelers again turn to ageless Batch

Steelers again turn to ageless Batch

PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Wallace is in his fourth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, so the wide receiver is familiar with all this talk about Charlie Batch.

Asked if it was at all concerning that the man throwing the ball to him on Sunday will soon be 38 years old, Wallace shrugged.

``He's been old,'' he said of Batch. ``It's not like he just got old. Chuck's been old since I got here, so it's nothing new.''

Neither is Batch making a fill-in start for his hometown Steelers (6-4), who are at Cleveland (2-8) this weekend. For the eighth time since he signed with Pittsburgh 11 years ago, Batch will be under center to begin a game for the Steelers.

No Steeler is older than Batch, whose birthday is Dec. 5. He spent the first four years of his career with Detroit, but only nose tackle Casey Hampton was with Pittsburgh before Batch arrived.

``They say Charlie built the building,'' guard Willie Colon deadpanned. ``That's what I heard.''

Teammates might enjoy yukking it up when it comes to Batch's age, but they're happy they have him and more content than could be reasonably expected for an NFL team down to its third-string quarterback.

``I feel comfortable with Charlie,'' Wallace said. ``I feel like he can lead us to victory any game he plays in. Just two years ago when we played with him the first four games we were 3-1 so I'm excited about having Chuck out there.''

Batch started two of those early season games while Ben Roethlisberger served a four-game suspension and Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon sat out with injuries.

This season, Roethlisberger and Leftwich both have rib injuries. Leftwich relieved Roethlisberger two weeks ago in a win over Kansas City and started this past Sunday's loss to Baltimore.

With most other teams, dropping down to the third-string QB - if they even have one - more often than not means an inexperienced rookie. With the Steelers, it means one of the most tenured quarterbacks in the NFL.

``Charlie's a well-rounded quarterback who's ... comfortable running the majority of our offense,'' offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. ``He's a veteran savvy guy who's an accurate thrower, short and long.''

In his most recent game, Batch completed 15 of 22 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 27-0 win over St. Louis last Christmas Eve. He is 5-2 as a starter with the Steelers, and one of his losses was a meaningless outing in the 2007 season finale when Pittsburgh's playoff seeding was wrapped up.

In recent years, Batch seemingly enters every training camp as - at best - No. 3 on the depth chart, and there are whispers his roster spot is tenuous.

Then usually every year, he starts at least one game and excels.

``These opportunities don't come often anymore,'' Batch said. ``And here I am, getting up there in years. When you have this opportunity you cherish it.''

Batch, who said he had one of his better training camps, joked he's ``doing it for all the 38-year-olds.''

Some of the best quarterbacks in the game (Peyton Manning, 36, and Tom Brady, 35) are close to Batch's age. The 37-year-old Matt Hasselbeck passed for 290 yards in beating the Steelers last month. Brett Favre was 41 when he played his final game - 40 when he had an MVP-caliber season with the Minnesota Vikings.

``Charlie is Charlie,'' receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. ``He's very smart, and he takes pride in the minor details of his job.''

Wallace said Batch regularly asks more questions than anyone in the offensive meeting room, and several players refer to the quarterback as the proverbial ``coach on the field.''

That prompted Haley to say, half-jokingly, ``We've got to teach him the art of not over-coaching.''

The only other healthy quarterback on Pittsburgh's roster is Brian Hoyer, signed Tuesday. While Haley and teammates have marveled at Hoyer's intelligence and ability to pick up the offense quickly, the Steelers need Batch to stay healthy.

``Right now,'' Batch said, ``I'm that guy and there's no telling how long I'll have this position. It could be one week, it could be two or three. I don't know. But either way, you just go week to week and not worry about what's going to happen after the fact.''

With 53 career starts, 78 games and 1,534 pass attempts, Batch thinks he's prepared for Sunday.

The only adjustment Batch said he wants to make is the timing of the play clock and interpreting Haley's play call while in the huddle to get it out to the rest of the offense.

More than 14 years after his first NFL start, Batch this week has had the butterflies associated with being eager for game day.

``I still get excited about it because these opportunities don't come much,'' he said. ``Right now, I know I have at least one other one.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

cliffkeenanjulierefframe_1.jpg

AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

Here’s a key AFC North question. Will Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stay healthy?

Bell is without question one of the league’s most talented backs. However, knee injuries have ended his season the past two years, leaving the Steelers without him when they were eliminated from the playoffs.

De’Angelo Williams did a superb job in place of Bell last season, rushing for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns. But Bell is a better pass receiver and more elusive – capable of turning almost any play in to a big play. In 2014, Bell had over 2,000 yards combined from scrimmage – 1,316 yards rushing and 854 yards receiving.

Bell doesn’t want to be labeled as injury-prone, yet some people already view him that way. But at Steelers OTA’s, Bell showed up looking healthy, while vowing not to run cautiously next season.

“I’m going to be physical,” Bell told ESPN.com. “I’m out here with no knee brace or anything, didn’t wear a sleeve or anything. I’ve been training my knee for everything I’m about to go through, so when September gets here I’ll be even better than I am now. That’s even crazy to think about. But I’m excited.”

When Bell has been healthy, putting up numbers has not been a problem. The more Bell plays next season, the better the Steelers’ chances of making the playoffs.

Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

ronniestanleybrentminicamprefframe_1.jpg

Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

If the NFL had an All-Academic team, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel would be on it.

In February, Urschel began the Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT. How’s he doing so far? Here’s a hint. When it comes to grades, Urschel is only familiar with one letter in the alphabet.

“My first semester in school in nearly three years,” Urschel wroter on Twitter. “Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A’s. The streak continues!!!”

Entering his third season with the Ravens, Urschel has found a way to juggle his love for football with his love for mathematics. He posted an interesting article on The Players Tribune this week in which he described training with the football team at MIT this spring.

“I probably had about 50 or 60 pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line,” Urschel wrote. “But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.

“What I found is that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team – in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status.

“We talk about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.”

That guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials might be the most interesting man in the world. But Urschel has built a strong resume as the most interesting player on the Ravens.

RELATED: NFL ANNOUNCES LOCATIONS FOR 2019, 2020 AND 2021 SUPER BOWLS

NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

dystl052316refframe_1.jpg

NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

The NFL has decided on the locations of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls. The vote took place at the NFL owners meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday. 

Atlanta will host Super Bowl LIII in 2019, while South Florida (Miami) will get the event in 2020 and Los Angeles will host in 2021. 

The cities chosen each included new or upgraded stadiums in their pitches to the league. 

Atlanta will be home to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opening in 2017. 

Miami's stadium (Sun Life Stadium from 2010-2016) is undergoing a $400 million renovation that will include an open-air canopy to provide shade for 92 percent of seats, according to Sports Illustrated. Construction should be complete before the 2017 season. 

And Los Angeles will boast a new 300-acre, campus-style stadium housing the Rams and potentially a second team. The $2.6 billion project will be the most expensive sports arena in the world, reports CNN, and should be ready before the 2019 NFL season.