Ben who? Charlie Batch, who had one foot out of Pittsburgh at the beginning of the season as he dropped to fourth string quarterback, had the best game of his career, leading the Steelers to a 38-13 blowout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers keeping them among the select few undefeated teams in the young NFL season at 3-0.
Now they play their first conference game Sunday against the 2-1 Baltimore Ravens, fresh off their best offensive game of the season beating the Cleveland Browns 24-17.
Batch threw for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 12 of 17 passing, leading the Steelers to their best offensive game of the season. They jumped out to a 28-6 halftime lead and cruised from there as the defense once again illustrated why they are the best in the NFL by stopping quarterback Josh Freeman, who was 20 of 31 for 184 yards and no touchdowns, and shutting down the running game, holding LaGarrette Blount to just 27 yards on seven carries and Cadillac Williams to 13 yards on six carries.
Batch, who had been the second string quarterback for the past few seasons, got very few reps during the preseason. He became the forgotten man and many expected him to be released until faith opened the doors for him through injuries to Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon, and he made the most of it.
Lighting fast Mike Wallace scored on catches of 46 and 41 yards during a stretch where the Steelers scored on four consecutive possessions to build the a halftime lead. The 38 points was four more than the Steelers were able to muster in their first two games where the offense struggled, especially the last game against the Tennessee Titans after Dixon was injured.
Rashard Mendenhall had another outstanding game keeping the defense honest with 143 yards on just 19 carries and one touchdown, his second 100 yard-plus game of the season putting him among the league leaders in rushing yardage. Wallace led all receivers with 100 yards on just three catches. Ward also had three catches and a touchdown with 34 yards.
The Steelers/Ravens game will pit to of best two defenses in the NFL against each other with Pittsburgh sitting in the No. 1 spot allowing just 34 points for the season while the Ravens are fourth with 41, but maybe not two of the worst offenses. Both offenses came to life last week. As bad as the Steelers had been on offense during the first two games, the Ravens weren’t a whole lot better as quarterback Joe Flacco looked terrible. But he finally got it together against the Browns as he had his best game, going 22 of 31 for 262 yards and three touchdowns through the ai. Ray Rice had a solid ground game with 80 yards on 15 carries and Willis McGahee 29 yards on nine carries.
The Steelers biggest challenge this week will be containing newly acquired Anquan Boldin, who came over during the off season from the Arizona Cardinals. Boldin had eight catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns against Cleveland. They will also have to shut down the running game led by Rice and McGahee. However, the Ravens should have their hands full trying to contain Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore who combined for more than 200 yards. They were not able to contain Peyton Hillis who ran 22 times for a career-high 144 yards and a touchdown for the Browns.
But their biggest challenge may be a fired up Charlie Batch and an entire offensive line that should be filled with confidence after their outstanding performance against the Bucs. Max Starks being back made a big difference.
The Steelers should be 4-0 going into their bye week. If Batch puts together another great game, the big question will be who starts at quarterback against Cleveland after the bye?