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Charlie Batch Cannot Be Stopped

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Fans of horror movies know that the end is never really the end. Usually the baddie will look like a goner only to pop back up and scare the bejeezus out of you several times before the film actually ends. No matter what you throw at them, Jason and Freddy keep coming back for more.

Add Charlie Batch to that list.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have tried to put ‘ol Chaz out to pasture for years now. They drafted guys like Dennis Dixon and Brian St. Pierre hoping to eventually groom them as the top backup. They’re all gone. They brought in a veteran like Byron Leftwich to unseat him. Lefty still hasn’t started a single game for the Black and Gold. Batch has started three since he arrived, coming within two botched Jeff Reed field goals of going 3-0 over that span.

Not even the NFL can stop Charlie Batch.

There was some talk that time had finally run out on Charlie because of the NFL’s new rules regarding back-up quarterbacks. If you were watching on Friday as teams cut players in order to get down to their final 53 man roster, you may have noticed an interesting trend. Many teams, such as the Patriots and Bears, cut their third string QB and are carrying only two QBs on the roster. Rumor had it the Steelers were going to do likewise.

As usual, the NFL’s desire to fix something by changing a rule ended up only making it worse. Before last season, teams had to designate an “Emergency” third string QB who could only come into the game in the fourth quarter or if the first two QBs were hurt. If he came in before the fourth, the other two QBs could not return. What the NFL discovered was a lot of 2nd string QBs absolutely suck. Unfortunately, teams couldn’t switch to their 3rd option until the last minute because of those goofy rules.

This all came to a head during the NFC Championship game between the Bears and Packers where Chicago was pressed into using their back-up only to discover his attempts at playing quarterback were more comical than Tino Sunseri‘s. They were forced to play their 3rd string guy before the fourth quarter, thus setting into motion what ended up being a farce of a championship game.

So the NFL changed the rule last season. The “Emergency” third string QB could come in at any time and without preventing the return of the other guys. This also helped teams who ran the WildCat because now they could keep a running QB on the roster for their gimmick offense while also having a more traditional back-up. The thought was teams would now be able to carry three QBs with all three dressed and ready to play come game day.

What ended up happening was this. Teams figured out that since you didn’t have to designate an “Emergency” QB who had to sit on the bench until the fourth quarter, anybody could be your third stringer. If disaster struck and you lost your first two signal callers, chances are the game was out of hand anyway so who cares who takes snaps at that point? Teams began going with only two QBs on game day with a position player serving as the disaster option.

The Steelers carried three QBs last year but only dressed two for the majority of the games. That’s why Dixon, who was on the 53 man all season but was only active for a handful of Sundays, was able to be signed to the Ratbirds’ practice squad. It surely wasn’t because he could give them some inside info on the Steelers. Everybody knows he only learned a half-dozen plays the four years he was here.

So the thought was the Steelers would forgo the formality of keeping three QBs and cut Charlie Batch. But as he always does, Chaz survived. And when Leftwich blows out his ACL taking a knee during garbage time in week 4, he’ll be Ben’s back-up once again. It’s fate and you simply can’t fight fate.

The rest of cutdown day was pretty uneventful. The only surprising cut made by the Steelers was releasing OL Trai Essex. Essex is mediocre but he’s that rare super-sub capable of playing all three OL positions. Rumor is the Steelers plan to re-sign him once they sort out whether DeCastro should go on permanent or 8 week IR (plus if they wait until after week 1, his 2012 salary is not guaranteed, gotta save those pennies!). There weren’t any other notable names among the cuts with the team keeping all their 2012 draft picks except 7th rounder CB Terence Fredrick, who was beaten out by undrafted free agent Josh Victorian. 7th rounder WR Toney Clemons, who was cut along with every other WR outside of Young Money & the Cotch Rocket, was signed to the practice squad along with speedster David Gilreath. Also of note is the Steelers’ revolving door at punter continues this season with rookie Drew Butler winning the job by default as incumbent Jeremy Kapinos never recovered from back surgery.