BEREA - If the Pittsburgh Steelers would decide to put an insignia on the blank side of their helmets, an appropriate choice might be the Red Cross symbol.
From the time rookie guard David DeCastro went down with a knee injury in a preseason game, it's been nothing but bad news for the Steelers. The offensive line, as usual, has been hit hard. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has been banged up, and the biggest hit was a rib and shoulder injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Until last Sunday the Steelers (6-4) were cruising along on the strength of an MVP-type of season by Roethlisberger, who has a 100 passer rating with 17 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. Roethlisberger was injured in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs Nov. 12.
Byron Leftwich started in a 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week. Leftwich suffered cracked ribs in that game and won't be available Sunday when the Steelers take on the 2-8 Browns in Cleveland.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn't expect sympathy from any opponent, which is why he approaches each week in a business-as-usual mode.
"Over the course of a football season people get opportunities because of injuries to others," Tomlin said. "With their performances they prove they're capable. That's all guys need is an opportunity.
"With every performance that point gets driven home when guys like Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer can step up and deliver feature-back-like performances. It's not me. They do it with their play."
Roethlisberger's injury can't be accurately calculated, other than in wins and losses. He was playing as well as he had at any time during a nine-year career that includes two Super Bowl-winning efforts prior to the injury.
The drop-off in talent to Leftwich was eye-opening. Leftwich looked old and weak-armed even before suffering the rib injury. Batch, a 15-year veteran, has a history of playing well in relief roles, but he's nowhere close to Roethlisberger in talent.
"We expect him (Batch) to play winning football," Tomlin said. "He's capable of that. He's distinguished himself over the latter years of being able to play above the line on a limited number of snaps. He's done it for us as recently as last year. He did it for us in 2010, and we expect the same."
Browns coach Pat Shurmur went into this week assuming that Roethlisberger wouldn't play but that maybe Leftwich might get the call. Tomlin ruled out Leftwich on Tuesday and put the ball into Batch's hands.
"We know Batch from previous years," Shurmur said. "When veteran quarterbacks come in and play, they tend to do very well. I don't think their style on offense will change. I didn't see a change tremendously when Leftwich was in there.
"They want to run the football, and when you run the football effectively that makes the play-action believable. They have a veteran guy that their players are going to play hard for."
Batch certainly doesn't bring the element of strength in the pocket that makes Roethlisberger a threat. Defenders can get to Roethlisberger. The problem is bringing him down.
Batch moves well, but he doesn't have the ability to pull out of the grasp of potential tacklers. Few quarterbacks do.
"You just deal with the fact that when you try to get pressure on Ben it becomes tougher because he can extend plays and hurt you outside the pocket or when things get a little helter-skelter," Shurmur said.