June 29, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Batch gets starting call for Steelers

Brian Dulik

The Gazette

BEREA — Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch has made seven starts in eight seasons with Pittsburgh. His eighth will occur Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Browns.

Batch is filling in for Byron Leftwich (broken ribs), who had been filling in for first-stringer Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder, ribs). With the latter two signalcallers sidelined, the Steelers signed Cleveland St. Ignatius High graduate Brian Hoyer to be Batch’s backup.

“I know Ben and Leftwich are out, but their offensive line is still there and playing at a high level, and everyone knows that their defense is very good,” Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine said Friday after practice.

“Charlie also can still play, and you saw that last year when he had to come in and win a big game for them (27-0 over St. Louis on Dec. 24). The only difference between him and Ben is Charlie will find his receivers quicker because he’s not quite as mobile.”

Batch, who will turn 38 on Dec. 5, was Detroit’s second-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. He has a 5-2 record while starting in place of Roethlisberger, including a 34-21 victory over the Browns on Nov. 13, 2005.

Overall, the former Eastern Michigan star has a 77.8 passer rating and a 24-29 record as a starter in 80 professional games. Batch has career totals of 10,610 yards, 60 touchdowns and 48 interceptions, but just five of his scoring strikes have come in the last five years.

“There is enough previous film on Charlie so you can see how he functions,” Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. “We’ve just got to try to piece it together with how the Steelers play offense now, which is a little bit different, but I’m sure Charlie is going to understand the timing of the routes they’ll be running for him.”

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin stressed that he wouldn’t have kept Batch on the team if he wasn’t capable of having success, but added that Leftwich clearly won the backup job during training camp.

And though Batch has not attempted a regular season pass since the aforementioned Rams game, the coach said his track record gives him plenty of confidence.

“Charlie is a veteran player, one that has distinguished himself over the latter part of his career of being able to play above the line on a limited number of snaps,” Tomlin said. “He’s done it for us as recently as last year, he did it for us in 2010, and we expect the same from him this week.

“We expect him to play winning football. We believe he’s capable of doing that.”

Giveaway still on

The Browns and Ticketmaster are proceeding with their plans to give each fan an inflatable white flag — featuring the team’s classic orange helmet — as they enter the stadium Sunday.

Though a front office executive said, “They’re more like pennants, which is what we should have called them in the first place,” the symbolism of Cleveland fans waving white flags while the Browns are playing the Steelers does not sit well with linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.

“I try not to get caught up in what goes on outside this locker room and tend to focus on the Steelers, but I’m not a fan of the white flags,” said Jackson, who has spent his entire seven-year career with Cleveland. “That’s the simplest way I can put it.

“I’m not a fan of it whatsoever, knowing that we’re going to see the (Pittsburgh-based) Terrible Towels flying anyways. It’s just not a message that I like, and I’m sure a lot of other guys don’t approve of.”

Many Browns players privately said they agreed with Jackson, but none of them wished to do so on-the-record.

“I think I’m going to let D’Qwell speak for all of us on that,” said kicker Phil Dawson, who has been with Cleveland since its 1999 expansion season. “My mom told me when I was growing up, ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it.’ I’m going to follow those words in this case.”

Extra points

Kevin Harlan and Ohio resident Solomon Wilcots will be behind the mic for CBS on its coverage of the Browns/Steelers game.

It will air on all of the network’s affiliates in Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, along with most of Michigan (except for Detroit) and Wisconsin (except for Milwaukee). Half of the states of Pennsylvania and Florida also are slated to receive the AFC North Division battle.

l Cleveland wide receiver Greg Little practiced in gold shoes with orange laces, but said the unique footwear has not been cleared by the NFL’s uniform committee, so he cannot wear them in games.

l Little and fellow wideouts Josh Gordon and Mohamed Massaquoi both spent extra time running patterns with quarterback Brandon Weeden after practice.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.