If Charlie Batch doesn't start another game for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season, the 37-year-old quarterback can take solace in knowing he went out on a decidedly high note.
And if Ben Roethlisberger isn't healthy enough to reclaim the starting job this week, Batch will be delighted to build on his memorable performance Sunday in a 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
With the Steelers facing elimination in the AFC North and trying to avoid slipping to .500, Batch rallied Pittsburgh to an uplifting win over a hated rival. Batch went 25 for 36 for 276 yards and directed a 61-yard drive in the closing minutes to set up Shaun Suisham's 42-yard field goal as time expired.
Roethlisberger has missed three straight games with shoulder and rib injuries, and Batch took over after Byron Leftwich was injured against Baltimore two weeks ago. Roethlisberger is working his way back into form, which means Sunday's game against the Ravens could be Batch's last start this season.
"Every game that I go out there, I look at it that way," he acknowledged. "A lot of other people were starting to make a little more of it than maybe what it was."
If nothing else, it was a redemptive performance. Batch threw three interceptions one week earlier in a loss to Cleveland, and the Steelers committed eight turnovers overall.
"I wanted this opportunity because I played poorly last week," he said. "I wanted an opportunity to come out here and lead this team."
With Batch leading the way, the Steelers (7-5) kept alive their slim hopes of winning the AFC North and enhanced their playoff chances. Pittsburgh also ended Baltimore's 15-game home winning streak.
"To be able to go on the road and do something that nobody outside of our locker room thought that we could do is big," Batch said.
The Ravens (9-3) and Steelers split two games this season, with each winning by three points. Seven of the last eight regular-season games between the teams have been decided by that same margin.
"That was a typical Pittsburgh-Baltimore game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's amazing how it works out that way."
Pittsburgh trailed 13-3 in the first half and 20-13 in the fourth quarter before coming back. Batch missed a wide-open Mike Wallace in the end zone near the conclusion of the first half, but the cagey quarterback more than made up for it after halftime.
The Ravens could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory. Instead, Baltimore had its 12-game winning streak against division foes came to end.
Asked if it was a shock to get beat by the seldom-used Batch, Ravens safety Ed Reed said, "It's not surprising at all."
Then he added, "Maybe a little bit."
Batch outplayed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who went 16 for 34 for 188 yards and fueled Pittsburgh's comeback by losing a fumble in the fourth quarter.
"I think we missed a couple of opportunities early to really take a hold of this game even more," Flacco said. "I thought we could have put up 30 or 40 points today and we didn't. I think that's a reflection that we hurt ourselves."
The Steelers gave the ball away three times. The Ravens converted two of the takeaways into touchdowns, and the third — a leaping interception by Reed in the end zone — kept a 20-13 lead intact with 10:59 left.
Pittsburgh got the ball back, however, when James Harrison forced a fumble by Flacco at the 27.
"Guy came around hit my wrist and hit the ball and just got it out," Flacco said. "I wish I could have held on but wasn't able to."
Batch threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller to tie it with 7:24 to go.
The next time Pittsburgh got the ball back, Batch showed his poise with a beat-the-clock march. The key play in the final drive was a 15-yard completion to Wallace on a third-and-7.
After generating only 93 yards in offense in the first half, the Steelers opened the third quarter with a 78-yard touchdown drive to pull even at 13. Batch threw a 43-yard pass to Miller before Jonathan Dwyer scored on a 16-yard run.
Later in the quarter, Batch connected with Emmanuel Sanders near midfield with no defender in sight. But Sanders inexplicably lost his grip on the football after taking two steps, and the Ravens recovered on the Baltimore 37.
The Ravens turned the miscue into a 20-13 lead. Flacco completed a 19-yard pass to Dennis Pitta before Ray Rice took a handoff, veered right, then broke left and outside for a 34-yard score.
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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