Batch keeps Steelers in playoff hunt

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Charlie Batch’s farewell game was a work of art as he kept the Steelers in the playoff hunt with a 23-20 upset of the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens, 9-3.

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REDEMPTION IN BALTIMORE—Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch congratulates running back Jonathan Dwyer, right, after Dwyer’s 16-yard touchdown run during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 2. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Ben Roethlisberger should be returning against the San Diego Chargers, so Charlie should spend the rest of the season on the bench. And there’s rumors that Byron Leftwich should also be ready which moves Batch down to third string, even though he should have earned the number two slot with the victory over the Ravens. Given a lot more freedom in the play selection, Batch, who turns 38 on Wednesday, passed for 276 yards and a touchdown on 25 of 36 passing. He distributed the ball fairly equally to Heath Miller, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders all with 5 receptions each.

He also had much better ground support as new starter Jonathan Dwyer picked up 49 yards on 16 carries and Isaac Redman had 43 yards on 9 carries.

The Chargers have been a big disappointment since Norv Turner took over as head coach several years ago. Led by Philip Rivers, who was one of the big three quarterbacks, with Roethlisberger, and Eli Manning to enter the league in 2004, he’s the only one without a Super Bowl ring, whereas the other two have 2 each.

Rivers has had the individual stats over the years but he hasn’t been able to lead his team out of mediocrity. Remember this team traded Drew Brees to keep Rivers. This year once again he has good stats, 277 of 424 for 2969 yards but a low QB Rating of 85.1 because of a high turnover ratio.

The running game is nothing to write home about either. Ryan Matthews is their lead back with 620 yards on 155 carries for a 4 yards average. His backup is Jackie Battles with 220 yards on 52 carries for a 4.3 average. Danario Alexander is the only receiver with any kind of numbers. He has 765 yards on 51 receptions.

On offense the Chargers aren’t ranked in the top 15 in any category. They are 19th in points scored, 26th in yards, 18th in passing yards, and 26th in rushing yards.

On the defensive side of the ball they might be a little better as they are 6th in rushing yards allowed, and 9th in total yards and 12th in least points allowed.

All this translates into another losing season, 4-8 from a team that is considered to be a contender every year, until the season starts. They are coming off another close loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, 20-13.

Speaking of the Bengals, they kept the pressure on the Steelers with their win over the Chargers keeping them in a tie with a 7-5 record. The Indianapolis Colts, 8-4, stayed in front of them for the two wild card slots with a 35-33 victory over the Detroit Lions.

The Steelers have the easiest schedule for the remaining four games with the Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, 6-6, Bengals and Cleveland Browns, 4-8.

The Bengals play Dallas, Philadelphia Eagles, 3-9, Steelers and the Ravens.

The Colts have to play the Houston Texans, 11-1, twice along with the lowly Tennessee Titans, 4-8, and Kansas City Chiefs, 2-10.

The Steelers and Bengals should win their next two games, making the clash between these two in the next to last game of the season a huge battle, that may just determine who makes the playoffs. But first they must win their next two games.

AP NOTES: Pittsburgh CB Ike Taylor hurt his right ankle in the first quarter and did not return…Tomlin said FB Will Johnson “probably has a concussion.”…Brown has thrown two passes this season. The other one was incomplete…Baltimore missed a chance to go 10-2 for the first time in franchise history…Rice’s 32nd rushing touchdown broke a second-place tie with Willis McGahee on the team’s career list.

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