Life of a backup: Charlie Batch has been there.
And he said it best.
“It’s the life of a backup quarterback.”
Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List and won’t play today against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field.
Mason Rudolph is expected to start, experiencing the life of the backup quarterback which often comes without much notice.
“You never know. That is the toughest part,” said Batch, the former Steelers backup quarterback. “It could be the first play of the game, it could be the middle of the fourth quarter, it could be the last minute of a drive when it’s third down and nobody cares whether or not you got practice time or played the entire game. You have to go out and convert the first down to help secure a victory.”
Rudolph has a little bit of an advantage over many backup quarterbacks in the NFL in that Roethlisberger doesn’t normally practice on a Wednesday, giving him and Dwayne Haskins more reps. This week Roethlisberger missed practice time with a pectoral and right shoulder injury. The team had a walk-through on Wednesday where Rudolph got mental reps, and he also got extended reps in practice on Thursday with Roethlisberger missing practice that day as well.
“The earlier the better just to give you preparation,” said Batch of when you like to learn you are stepping into the role. “That is the best scenario when it happens. Based off of where Mason is right now, and Ben’s career, he typically doesn’t practice on Wednesday, so at least he is able to get some of those reps. In my case Ben was young so he was taking all of the reps. You didn’t get any reps and had to be thrust in there.
“Over the past few weeks Mason has been getting more reps than what he usually has during the course of the week. Even though Wednesday was a walkthrough, that is what Coach (Mike) Tomlin says from the neck up perspective, it allows you to see a few more reps visually than what you were accustomed to seeing. The closer to game time he got reps, the more to his advantage. A lot of it comes down to understanding the little nuances. I know what the first read is, the second read is. You are taking yourself through every scenario.”
Batch said he never faced a scenario like this one in his career but did go through the opposite when he practiced all week only to learn Roethlisberger would be healthy enough to play on gameday. He did say when you get the news, it does change your mindset.
“When (Mason) got the word, it definitely changes,” said Batch. “Now it goes from here is what I like, he is what I want to see from a game plan perspective. I think it changes on both sides. Now (offensive coordinator) Matt Canada has to go from what Ben likes to switching some things up, especially those first 15 plays from what Mason would like vs. what Ben would like.”
The one thing it shouldn’t do is impact the offensive line in a major way as it has to be the quarterback who makes the adjustments to work in tandem with the line.
“As a backup you are trying to emulate what the starter is doing from a snap perspective,” said Batch. “My snap count was different than Ben’s, but when I was thrown in there, I had to do what he was doing from a cadence perspective versus if I knew I was starting all week they would adjust to what I like.”