PITTSBURGH (AP) -- For many NFL teams, all these quarterback
injuries might ruin a season. The Pittsburgh Steelers simply plug
in another player and keep winning.
Charlie Batch improvised a 1-yard touchdown run late in the
second quarter, and his passing led to another score before he left
with a broken right hand. The Steelers withstood their second QB
injury in three weeks to beat the rival Cleveland Browns 34-21
Whatever the Steelers lack in quarterback quality -- and, with a
7-2 record that ties them with Cincinnati for the AFC North lead,
it's not much -- they're making up for it with depth. Ben
Roethlisberger missed a second straight game with an injured knee,
but their other three quarterbacks were just fine.
Tommy Maddox replaced Batch to run an efficient and
time-consuming offense in the second half, and college
QB-turned-wide receiver Antwaan Randle El threw a 51-yard scoring
pass to Hines Ward on a reverse early in the third quarter to put
the Steelers up 24-7.
Randle El, an option quarterback at Indiana, also lined up under
center and scooted for a 12-yard run later in the third quarter,
about the time the Browns were wondering where all these
quarterbacks were coming from.
"It's really weird," Maddox said of a recent streak of
injuries that also left the Steelers without star linebacker James
Farrior. "Sometimes you don't need anybody. Sometimes you need to
Batch, 2-0 as a starter this season after losing his last 10 NFL
starts with the Lions in 2000-01, is expected to be out at least
two games, according to coach Bill Cowher. However, Roethlisberger
could return Sunday at Baltimore after missing three of the
Steelers' first nine games with injuries to both knees.
And to think some NFL teams don't have a single quarterback who
can move an offense, much less four.
"I can still play quarterback -- I just don't have that urge I
had as a rookie," Randle El said. "But maybe when I'm too old and
slow to play receiver, they'll let me play quarterback."
Batch, shaky the week before in a 20-10 victory at Green Bay in
his first NFL start in four years, looked smooth and polished while
directing the Steelers to a 17-7 halftime lead. Even when he
underthrew the ball, it worked out -- Cedrick Wilson shed two
defenders by coming back for a 43-yard reception that led to Jerome
Bettis' 1-yard TD run midway through the second quarter.
Batch scored with 6 seconds left in the half, the Steelers out
of timeouts and both teams scrambling to line up after Batch twice
found Hines Ward to put the ball on the 1. Running a play Steelers
QBs are supposed to use in such circumstances, Batch managed to
line up the offense and score himself before the Browns' defense
was set up.
"That's the objective -- to get the play off before they can
substitute on defense," Batch said.
Batch was hurt when his hand struck a Browns player's helmet on
a followthrough during the second quarter but stayed in to direct
that 40-yard touchdown drive, which was set up by linebacker Joey
Porter's interception of a deflected Trent Dilfer pass.
"I thought the game slowed down for him this week. He made good
decisions and looked comfortable out there," Cowher said of Batch
(13-of-19, 150 yards). "When you've been out that long, you have
to get back up to game speed."
Ward also enjoyed a big game, making eight catches for 124 yards
to give him 543 receptions for his career, breaking Hall of Famer
John Stallworth's team record of 537. No other receiver in team
history has more than 358.
The Browns (3-6) lost their 10th in 11 games against Pittsburgh,
and their fourth in five games overall amid a familiar story line:
not enough offense. The Browns, who came into the game averaging
14.1 points, mounted a 66-yard drive on an opening possession ended
by Reuben Droughns' 5-yard TD run, but did little else until
scoring two TDs in the final 4:23.
"They took some things away from us defensively and put us in
some holes, and we had to try to catch up throwing the ball," said
Dilfer, 17-of-34 for 253 yards.
Droughns, on pace to become the Browns' first 1,000-yard rusher
in 20 years, was held to 56 yards with no run longer than 9 yards.
Cleveland's other scoring came on Leigh Bodden's 59-yard return of
a blocked field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter, then a
9-yard pass from Dilfer to Antonio Bryant.
"They've got a good football team over there," Bryant said.
"But I think we showed some things that we're developing into a
good team, too."
Randle El's last two passes have gone for touchdowns; he
threw a 10-yarder on his only attempt last season. He is 12-of-14
for 112 yards in his NFL career. ... The Browns lost CB Daylon
McCutcheon (bruised abdomen) in the first quarter. ... The Browns
had two turnovers, giving them 14 in six games. ... Cowher is 16-5
against the Browns, the team he once played for.