PITTSBURGH (AP) — Charlie Batch completed 11 of 14 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown to bolster his hopes of playing a 15th NFL season and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Carolina Panthers 17-16 in their preseason finale Thursday night.
Batch hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 37-yard play on Pittsburgh's first drive and later found Will Johnson for a 27-yard gain to set up a field goal as the Steelers (3-1) won a battle of the backups against the Panthers (2-2).
Carolina quarterback Jimmy Clausen passed for 173 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard score to rookie Lamont Bryant with 2:31 to play to bring the Panthers within a point. The 2-point conversion failed, however, and kicker Justin Medlock missed a 50-yard field goal with 32 seconds left.
Both teams sat the majority of their top players.
That left plenty of time for guys who are fighting to survive Friday's final roster cuts, a group that includes Batch.
The 37-year-old is the elder statesman on the Steelers, and has been involved in a camp-long duel with Jerrod Johnson for the team's third quarterback spot. It's a familiar position for Batch, who survived roster cuts in each of the last two seasons thanks in part to injuries to usual backup Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich has stayed healthy this summer and injury issues at several positions — including offensive line and linebacker — have made it uncertain whether the Steelers will keep three quarterbacks on the roster.
Batch, a Pittsburgh native, put together a pretty convincing argument he should stick around. He deftly drove the Steelers 80 yards on five plays the first time they got the ball, capping the drive with a rainbow strike to Sanders. Batch floated the ball toward the goal line and Sanders split two defenders and made a spectacular diving catch.
Pittsburgh rookie running back/kick returner Chris Rainey appeared to make it 14-0 a few minutes later when he returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown. The play was called back, however, due to a holding penalty.