Scott Brown of the Tribune-Review tweeted Thursday afternoon that Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said veteran QB Charlie Batch will start if Ben Roethlisberger cannot play.
Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain in Pittsburgh's Week 14 win at Cleveland, and has not practiced yet this week.
The Steelers travel to San Francisco to take on the NFC West champion 49ers on Monday Night. Batch relieved Roethlisberger in two series after he was injured, and the offense produced very little. Roethlisberger re-entered the game after halftime despite being severely limited by the injury.
Batch looked cold, to put it mildly. He has played in three games this season - blowout wins over Seattle in Week 2 and Cincinnati in Week 13 before subbing for Roethlisberger in Week 14. His last start was against Baltimore in Week 4 of last season, with the Ravens pulling off a 17-14 win.
He started the previous week as well, throwing three touchdowns in a 38-13 Steelers romp over Tampa Bay.
There would be some logic to giving Dennis Dixon the start in this hypothetical scenario. His mobility may prove to be an asset against an aggressive 49ers defense highlighted by OLB Aldon Smith and possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate DE Justin Smith. Dixon started the first two games of Roethlisberger's four-game suspension, leading the Steelers to a win over Atlanta. He was injured in the first half of the Week 2 game at Tennessee - Batch replaced him and the Steelers won - and was eventually placed on Injured-Reserve.
Dixon looked erratic in the preseason, and if not for a season-ending injury to Byron Leftwich, the Steelers may have dealt Dixon or gave him his outright release. Dixon has spoken openly about wanting an opportunity to play for a team where he may have a chance to start. This is the last year of his contract, and he's very unlikely to be back with the team next season.
Essex to LG, Legursky to C if Pouncey cannot play
Arians also confirmed that, in the event C Maurkice Pouncey cannot play, Doug Legursky will move from left guard to center, and Trai Essex - not Chris Kemoeatu - will start at left guard.
Kemoeatu, the team's starting left guard at the start of this season and in the last two of the Steelers Super Bowl games, has fallen out of favor with the team after a season of poor play and multiple penalties. He was flagged four times in his last start, and Arians statement confirms he's been moved behind Essex on the depth chart for left guard.
San Francisco has one of the best run defenses in the game, and the top scoring defense (14 points a game). The injuries the Steelers have suffered and the personnel they're looking to bring to San Francisco suggest this could be the Steelers lowest offensive output of the season.
Trailing Baltimore by just a tiebreaker for the AFC North title - as well as a bye in the first round of the playoffs - this week may be the best chance Pittsburgh gets to leapfrog the Ravens and control their ability to win the division for the fourth time in five years. Baltimore travels to San Diego to take on the red-hot Chargers passing attack. Reports are coming out of Baltimore today suggesting CB LarDarius Webb may miss the game (possibly the rest of the regular season) with turf toe. That's the same ailment that's had LB Ray Lewis sidelined the last few weeks.
Rookie Jimmy Smith would start in Webb's place.