Batch to start on Sunday

Coach Mike Tomlin gave the edge to Charlie Batch in his weekly press conference on Tuesday and after practice on Wednesday made it official when he named Batch the starter for this Sunday's against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It feels good," said Batch. "All along I was trying to throw my hat into the ring to be one of the options for these first four games. Did I imagine it being this way, no, but here I am."

Batch has not started since December 30, 2007 against the Baltimore Ravens, but that does not concern his teammates.

"Charlie has been around long enough," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "He understands all of the guys. He understands this offense better than any of the guys here. We just have to protect Charlie. We can't let a guy go free and get a clean hit on Charlie and injure him. He'll get the ball out of his hand quick and make the right decision. If he does that, we'll be fine."

Knowing he is going to start at this point in the week is a bonus for Batch as it allows him plenty of time to prepare.

"I haven't had reps with the ones in a long time," said Batch. "To actually get the physical reps is good."

Batch saw playing time last week in Tennessee when Dixon was hurt, giving him a chance to get back in game mode.

"That is the most important thing because it was actual game speed," said Batch. "You can go out here and try to simulate it as much as possible on the practice field. Going against our defense every week allowed me to go out there and have some of the game speed and work some out of the pocket in practice. And then being able to shift that into actual game experience and go out there and try to do what you need to do."

Fellow quarterback Byron Leftwich fully participated in practice on Wednesday, the first time since he injured his knee in the preseason finale on Sept. 2.

"I am getting better," said Leftwich. "I am not 100 percent, but I didn't expect it to be. But it was a good day. It reacted. It did some things. It's getting a whole lot better."

Leftwich is the only other healthy quarterback on the roster, as Dennis Dixon underwent surgery Wednesday morning on his left knee. Leftwich is wearing a brace in practice and will do the same on game day.

"It's just getting used to the brace, it's a big old brace, and getting used to the tape, it's a big tape job and the tape and brace will restrict you from doing certain things," said Leftwich. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow. We'll see how it goes.

"I am just trying to push myself and make it through a whole practice and feel good the next day. I know I am ahead of the schedule. I want to make sure I am capable and healthy enough to go out there if needed."

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