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Report: Batch could be Steelers' starting QB in season opener

Charlie Batch could be the Steelers' starting quarterback in the Sept. 12 season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, according to *The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette*.

With Byron Leftwich out two to four weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and regular starter Ben Roethlisberger serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is leaning toward starting the veteran Batch and using third-year backup Dennis Dixon in specific game situations.

"You look back, we had three solid guys who were able to go in, step in, if needed," Batch told The Post-Gazette. "Now we're down to two. Over the weekend, they'll determine what's going to happen. Either way, I'll be ready to go.

"I feel good, I really do. Did the reps at training camp happen? No, but we're not in training camp anymore. Right now we're getting ready for Atlanta and we have the weekend and another seven days to get ready for them. At that point, whatever happens, happens. But either way, over this weekend, we'll start the preparation of getting the game plan together. I'll be ready to go either way."

After the Steelers learned the nature of Leftwich's injury, Dixon was taken out of Thursday night's preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers after throwing one pass for a touchdown -- a strong indication, at the time, that he was being protected for the opener. Batch played the final 2½ quarters, throwing just four passes.

If Dixon is called on in Batch's place, his recent on-field experience will help. Dixon saw more preseason playing time with the starters than any quarterback except Roethlisberger.

"Of course, I'll be excited if it does come my way," Dixon told The Post-Gazette. "At the same time, I'm even keel. I never get too high or never get too low."

Batch, a Steelers backup since 2002, owns an extensive knowledge of the team's playbook and played well while Roethlisberger was injured in 2005 and 2006, going 3-0 as a starter.

However, Batch has thrown just two passes since the final game of the 2007 season. He missed the 2008 season with a broken collarbone that occurred in the first preseason game, then went down with a wrist injury shortly after entering the only game he played last season.

Dixon has started one NFL game, throwing for a touchdown and running for another during a 20-17 overtime loss at Baltimore last season. The former University of Oregon star's running ability gives Pittsburgh's offense an extra dimension, but Tomlin said Dixon still must learn when to stay with a play and when to take off running.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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