Quarterback Charlie Batch might still be a starter in the NFL if he weren't injured so often. He's hurt again, this time a broken collarbone on the right side. The 33-year-old will miss four-to-six weeks.
In the meantime, the Steelers were busy lining up someone to back up Ben Roethlisberger, who has had injury issues of his own. They believe they have a team that can compete for a Super Bowl and want to make sure they don't have to use a rookie quarterback if something happens to Big Ben.
That's why Byron Leftwich figured in their plans. Leftwich will back up Roethlisberger until Batch recovers, and there's a chance he could remain with them even after that.
The Steelers drafted Dennis Dixon on the fifth round this year with the idea he would serve as their No. 3 quarterback and become the heir apparent to Batch as Ben's backup. But the injury to Batch could change that.
The organization loves Batch, a Pittsburgh native who is big in the community, and he kept their Super Bowl express on its path in 2005 when Roethlisberger was injured. They will keep him around. But they also could keep Leftwich and place Dixon on the practice squad.
"They have an opportunity to win it all," Leftwich said. "To be part of that, if I can help, that's my mindset. I'm just trying to get back out there."
Leftwich, 28, was the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft from Marshall, the year before the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger with the 11th pick from Miami in the same Mid-American Conference. The two have been friends since their days in the MAC, a conference that also produced Batch, who played at Eastern Michigan. Steelers quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson also was Leftwich's quarterbacks coach for part of his career in Jacksonville.
"I know Ben well, him and Charlie," Leftwich said. "I played against Ben, competed against him in college. It was fun."
Leftwich had been the starter since his rookie season in Jacksonville and was No. 1 at this time last year. However, coach Jack Del Rio decided to go with David Garrard instead and cut Leftwich Sept. 1. He signed with Atlanta but another ankle injury, the bane to his career, derailed him and the Falcons cut him in February.
"I don't think it was an issue with my production when on the football field," Leftwich said. "It was just the time I missed because of injuries. Believe me, I wasn't trying to do that."
Leftwich has lost 25 pounds and now goes 6-5, 225.
Batch was injured on a broken play in the first preseason game. He was supposed to hand off to Mewelde Moore, but the back ran to his right when he was supposed to go left. Batch kept the ball, ran to his left and was crushed after picking up six yards.
"I feel bad about the whole situation," Moore said.
"It was a busted play," Batch said. "Moe went to the right, and it was a play to left, so I tried to fill in and go where the play was supposed to go and a helmet went right on my collarbone. I think the way I landed jarred it a little bit."
CAMP CALENDAR: Players reported to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe July 27. No scrimmages are scheduled. The last practice at camp is Aug. 17.