Charlie Batch remains a very respected presence among the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as among their fans. He has been working in the booth covering their games for a while now, even though it has been five years since he has played. And at least he was able to finish his career with a nice win over the Ravens.
He was never a physical leader on the field for the Steelers, but he was always a voice of reason and an insightful minds in a variety of categories. He was integral to the development and maturation of many of their young players over the years, and that includes Ben Roethlisberger.
He generally has a pretty good pulse on the team and on locker rooms in general, so I do think that he deserves to be lent an ear after he recently commented on what he expects to happen within the Steelers locker room come training camp with regard to some of their labor disputes.
He recently spoke to Ray Fittipaldo for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and he was asked to give his thoughts about the potential of either running back Le’Veon Bell, who was given a franchise tag that he has not yet signed after failing to reach a long-term deal, or left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, with an unsigned exclusive rights tender in the quite for a long-term deal, choose not to report to training camp next week.
While the team can do nothing in terms of discipline against either of them should they stay home, since neither of them are technically under contract, that doesn’t mean that people won’t have opinions about them not being there. And we already heard alluding comments about Bell not showing up—and conversely, Villanueva showing up—during OTAs.
But Batch doesn’t think it will be an issue in the locker room in any way.
“There is no ill will toward a guy”, Batch said of the way teammates view their peers when they are in the midst of a labor dispute—perhaps because they understand that they may some day be in the same shoes, or perhaps already have been.
“Everyone’s situation is different”, he said. “Hines was a four-time Pro Bowler. He was vastly underpaid. Everybody understood that situation. He reported. And guess what? His deal got done. Everyone’s situation is different”, he continued to remind.
“When you get to that point, you can’t fault the player for doing that because the organization had opportunities to sign him”, Batch added. Referring to Bell, he likened his situation to that of Kirk Cousins.
“They had an opportunities to sign him, but they wanted him to prove it”, he said. “He proved it and got franchised again the following season. Now you can’t work out a deal because they weren’t willing to do it when he was an unproven player. So you can’t fault a player in that situation”.
The Steelers typically work out long-term extensions with players entering the final year of their rookie contracts. For Bell, that would have been last offseason, but he was coming off an MCL tear and a drug suspension, and the team may have already been aware of a second suspension as well, so they understandably wanted to let it play out.