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Charlie Batch, Steelers Quarterback, 2002-2012

March 4, 2014
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First, can you let readers know why you started the Best of the Batch Foundation and how has it gone so far?

I lost my sister to gang violence in 1996. At that point I promised that if I was ever in a position to give back I would. That opportunity presented itself in 1998 when I was drafted by the Lions and I started the foundation in 1999 and am proud that we now have over 2,300 kids in the foundation.

We’re based out of Munhall, Pa. I’m excited to make a difference and people can help us by contributing at http://batchfoundation.org/

I’m also involved in a number of other organizations – the United Way of Allegheny County, and the Western PA Human Society for example.  I try to support as many causes as possible.

You’re also a public speaker. How did you started speaking – what do you speak on – and what is your favorite thing about doing so?

It’s exciting – I’ve been speaking for the past seven years now. I’ve been honored to be the Steelers representative for the United Way the past six years and have had fun speaking and doing that. I now speak on leadership skills and community involvement – how to help people get others more involved. It involves lots of different things but ultimately it means getting people to be ready to lead. People can learn more about my speaking at charliebatch.com.

You were drafted by Detroit and played there for four years before leaving for Pittsburgh in free agency in 2002. How was your time in Detroit and what were the differences between the two organizations?

I’m thankful to Detroit for the opportunity – for drafting me. We tried to win a championship in Detroit but just weren’t able to do so. That’s why you play – to win championships. But, I wasn’t able to be part of their plans after those four years. Then I went on to have a wonderful eleven years with the Steelers – three Super Bowls – it was phenomenal.

In Detroit I was too young to know a difference between there and other organizations. I matured after those four years – I was so young then. I had the opportunity to play for two great owners. The only difference was that in Detroit I didn’t see the owner a lot - only game days. He was focused on his other business – Ford Motors. Not like the Rooneys where you saw them on the field. It’s a weighted question in a way – not better or worse, just different really.

What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh and what did the organization tell you about your role with the team that helped convince you to sign?

I visited other teams but the opportunity to come home and play for my hometown team outweighed everything else. At that point, the opportunity to do so may never have come again. To be someplace special like that meant more. I never expected to be there eleven years.

Did you ever expect to play for the Steelers for so long – ten years? And did you feel more pressure playing in front of your home town?

The only expectation I had was the opportunity to compete for a backup role on the team. You let everything else fill itself out. You’re here and it is what it is – so you go and take it. It was only a one-year deal when I signed. The opportunity to sign back again – from one, to five, to eleven years when most only play three years….That was special.

The only added pressure I had was on ticket requests. As hard as it is, it doesn’t mean you get more tickets because you are playing. That as the only problem I had and my family understood that. And if that is the only problem, I’d take that all day.

Who were some of the funniest characters on those Steelers teams that helped keep things loose – and what made them so. Any examples

I loved the locker room – that’s where the relationships are built. They are built way before Sundays. My favorite person to talk to was Larry Foote. He’d keep talking and talking until he won an argument., And he’d switch the subject if he had to until he won. He knows his facts – he is very knowledgeable on so many topics – and he could make you laugh.

Porter had his “Who ride” chant after a win. To hear that after every win – I grew to love that.

Does the team miss that leadership?

James Farrior was the number one leader – he was a vocal leader. Others weren’t as vocal.  It was a very veteran team,. A lot didn’t need to be said. The team grew up together – it was together for so long.  Now, they are asking those younger guys to take on those vocal roles. Now that many of the veterans are gone those younger guys need to step up and fill those roles.

Some younger guys need to step up. When you look at it now, Pouncey, Foster and DeCastro could be those guys, but they need to step up and do it That doesn’t include Ben {Roethlisberger} who’s a natural leader. Those are the guys I think of as new leaders. Le’Veon Bell as a starter now – will he step up? Players will start to look up to him. Foote is there on the defense and is a leader. Timmons isn’t a vocal leader but he’ll outwork any of the other guys.

You played behind a potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger -  How was that relationship with Ben?

I sat next to Ben nine out of ten years in the meeting rooms. We had conversations on the struggles we faced and just in getting to the NFL. Remember, I played at Eastern Michigan and he played at Miami of Ohio - we knew how hard it was just to get to the NFL from that conference – we knew how special it was for both of us to be sitting in the same room together in the NFL

How did you see Ben change over the years?

He had so much success early on – going to the Super Bowl in his second year. But we ran the ball heavily – over 50%^. People talked a lot about that and he wanted to be though of as an elite quarterback. So he worked extra hard to understand the playbook and be an elite quarterback. He put in a lot of hard work to make it to those three Super Bowls.

How did you help Ben do so?

It was a commitment that worked back and forth between us. We supported each other. We trusted each other – that unfolds back and forth. Seeing him grow up – from a twenty-two year-old  to a thirty-year-old…it’s amazing to think about it.

How did that trust develop though? How did the organization help that kind of trust exist between players competing  for the same role on the team?

It all goes back to understanding what your position is on the team – what your role is. There’s nothing you can do. My role was as a backup – that’s why I was brought on the team and I embraced it. I knew my role ahead of time. I knew what the team was thinking when they made an offer and I decided to accept that role. The team needs to make it clear what your role is as a player. That’s how they build that trust. And Pittsburgh did a great job of teaching players their roles on the team.

From your perspective, what were the biggest differences between Coach Cowher and Coach Tomlin, and how did they affect the team and players?

The only difference really was that one was black and the other was white. They coached the same. One was more experienced of course – I caught one at the end of his career and one at the beginning.

How did Coach Tomlin acclimate himself to the team, and vice versa?

Coach Tomlin knew the internal rumblings he had to deal with - many wanted and expected either Grimm or Wisenhunt to be the coach. All weren’t on board at first, but they all got it together quickly. Mike took it head on, talked about that with the players and the veterans understood it. It was the Rooneys’ decision, and the players accepted whatever their decisions were. The veterans understood it.

What surprised you – and what would surprise fans most – about how the team changed over your last few seasons? What do you expect this season?

That’s the business of football. All understand it – its hard to keep teams together anymore and you may not ever see it again like you had in Pittsburgh. It’s a business – players come and go. It’s not surprising.

It’s too early to predict this season – too premature. They should be happy at the way they ended last season but the turnover this year isn’t known yet.

Were you surprised at how the team struggled over the past couple of seasons?

Well its like I said earlier - you lose veterans - then you need others to step up. About a year or so ago I said this was a team in transition. Regardless of what management said and wanted fans to feel. In reality what I said came to light – the young guys took longer to come around as leaders and players.  The team is still in transition.   The media likes to play the guessing game, but the next 60-90 days, with free agency and the draft – will make the difference and address the questions about next year.

Any last thoughts for readers?

Anyone who wants to follow the foundation -they can do so at http://batchfoundation.org/ . Also, NFL Films did a great honor for me in telling my story. It aired on the NFL Network – it was a humbling that they chose my story to air. You can see the film if you want at http://charliebatch.com/

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