Batch is widely respected as a leader by his teammates and peers around the league and is active in the players’ union. He is Executive Committee Vice President for the NFLPA and has also served the union as a player representative. Because of his involvement with the union, he has a strong interest in the direction the NFL is heading in terms of player safety and the rules changes that are being implemented.
“I think things are headed in the right direction,’’ he says. “Everybody understands that we need to be educated more about the issues that are going on with our game that obviously affect players’ health when you’re done playing. As long as we continue to be educated, not only at the NFL level, it needs to trickle down to youth football .If you’re able to teach those kids how to tackle and the proper techniques, it will eventually transition to high school, college and the pros.’’
A number of recent rules changes – outlawing hitting the quarterback and defenseless receivers quickly come to mind – seem to favor offenses and have been a hot topic of discussion on sports talk shows. Batch says that over time, the rules changes won’t be that big of a deal. In the short term, they are doing what they were intended to do – create greater safety and making it easier for offenses to score.
“There’s more scoring, which fans love,’’ he says. “It puts defenses at a disadvantage because there are times they (defenders) don’t necessarily know how to hit or tackle somebody. It’s just one of those things that comes back to educating people and breaking some of those habits that people have had throughout their careers. If you continue to do that, it will eventually swing back to the defensive side. But right now the NFL is getting what it wants, more points, and I think that’s pretty much what fans want. The fans are happy.’’
The NFL has long been described as a league of trends. Batch says the rules changes that have been put into place to help offenses is just another of those trends, just like the Pistol Offense that the Washington Redskins run with Robert Griffin III and the Seattle Seahawks use with Russell Wilson as their quarterbacks.
“Offenses are ahead,’’ Batch says. “Defenses will catch up. They usually do. Right now this Pistol is what people are gearing toward, just like the Wildcat a couple of years ago. That eventually faded. This Pistol Offense people are in will last a little longer because of the mobile quarterbacks that are in college. The downside of that is you won’t see a bunch of quarterbacks with long careers.’’
If Batch’s assessment is accurate, he could be the last of the buffaloes. He was the second oldest quarterback in the league behind Tennessee Titans backup Kerry Collins during the 2012 season. He attributes his longevity to “a lot of blessings, taking care of my body, the power of massage and understanding that you can’t burn the candle on both ends.’’
He showed that he still has some game left when he guided the Steelers to a 23-20 win.
Batch started two games during the 2012 season while Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich, the Steelers’ No. 2 quarterback, were injured. He guided the Steelers to a crucial 23-20 road victory against their AFC North Division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, who went on to win Super Bowl XLVII in Week 13. Batch completed 25 of 36 passes for 276 and a touchdown, and he also engineered a 61-yard drive in the closing minutes to setup Shaun Suisham’s 42-yard field goal as time expired.
“I’ll play until my body tells me I can’t play anymore,’’ he says. “I know I can play next year, so I plan on playing next season. At this point I take it year to year.’’