The release of QB Troy Smith probably deadens this battle; it seems unlikely, particularly given QB Byron Leftwich's injury woes, the Steelers would keep the second-year practice squad eligible Johnson over the aged veteran Batch.
But stranger things have happened. You could probably just ask Johnson. He beat out an up-and-coming quarterback at Texas A&M, played pretty not bad in 2009, and had a big 2010 season in front of him.
Arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder came that offseason, and despite being the Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, he was eventually caught by that up-and-coming quarterback.
Johnson went undrafted in 2011, spent some time in the Eagles, and in the Arena League, but never recovered the same arm strength he had in 2010.
It looks as if this is one of the last chances he'll get.
He's a big dude (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and by all accounts, the arm strength just never came back after that surgery. Keep in mind, the first team All Big 12 quarterback in 2010 was Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden.
The same Last Chance statement could be said for Batch, but not because of surgery. Father Time and Mr. Rooney have already given Batch a longer career than most would ever have. He's entering his 14th NFL season, the last 10 in Pittsburgh, at the age of 38. His greatest value as a third-string QB is his knowledge of the game and experience in helping starter Ben Roethlisberger prepare each week. He's struggled a bit as an in-game replacement (Week 15 at San Francisco wasn't the shining moment of his career, to put it mildly), but looked solid in games in which he knew he was starting (Week 16 vs. St. Louis, he did pretty well).
The Steelers have to be looking for that starting-level back-up at some point in the near future. Some thought that may have been Smith, but for whatever reason, he's out, leaving Johnson as the sole competitor for Batch's roster spot.
And that may not even be enough. Perhaps that's why Smith was released; the Steelers are already prepared to go into 2012 with Batch as their third-stringer behind Roethlisberger and Leftwich. Since Smith has starting experience, they cut him early to give him a shot to pick up somewhere else. As far as Johnson goes, he could just be a training camp arm and practice squad candidate.