Of all the recent running backs the Steelers selected in the NFL Draft perhaps the guy fans were excited about more than any of them was Baron Batch, Pittsburgh's selection in the seventh round in 2011.
Batch came to the Steelers out of Texas Tech, a program which ran a spread offense, and while he never figured to be an every down back in the NFL, there was great intrigue that he could maybe replace Mewelde Moore as a younger and more explosive third down specialist.
But regardless of how Pittsburgh would best utilize Batch's skill-set, there was no question that he had the ability to potentially provide a spark to the offense.
I remember attending Steelers training camp in early August of 2011, and Batch, wearing number 35 at the time, was one of the quickest, fastest and most exciting players on the field. Of course, he hadn't even played in his first preseason game, so it was still a question mark if the dazzle he displayed on the practice field (which resembled the dazzle he displayed on Saturday afternoons in college) would translate once the pads started popping for real.
Unfortunately, we would never get to see just how well Batch's talents would translate to Sunday afternoons. Shortly before the start of the 2011 preseason schedule, Batch tore his ACL in a non-contact drill in training camp and would miss his entire rookie campaign.
Batch finally made his NFL debut a season ago, playing in 12 games and rushing for just 49 yards on only 20 carries. Minus the quickness and speed on display at Tech and in the very early days of his rookie camp, Batch was mostly a quiet and forgotten member of Mike Tomlin's committee of running backs.
Batch did little of note in the 2013 preseason, as he continued to deal with injuries and struggled to re-capture the skill-set that made him such a tantalizing late-round pick.
The Steelers had to cut their roster down to 75 players after Saturday night's 26-20 overtime loss to Kansas City. Batch became a victim of the numbers game, thanks to a crowded backfield that included rookie Le'Veon Bell and the recently acquired Felix Jones, who came to Pittsburgh late last week in a trade with the Eagles.
I hate to talk in absolutes about Batch because there's usually a reason players get drafted where they do, and his career with the Steelers may have had the same shelf-life even if he survived his rookie year totally unscathed. But, man, it's hard to imagine him not making a better account of himself if not for an unfortunate freak moment that occurred when his career was just getting started.
It remains to be seen if Batch will land on his feet and with another team, but by all accounts, he is an extremely intelligent and insightful young man, so regardless of whether or not he's played in his final NFL game, he'll probably do more than OK in his life's work.
Linebacker Sean Spence, Pittsburgh's third round pick in 2012, who, like Batch, lost out on his rookie season after suffering a gruesome knee injury in the Steelers' final preseason game, may soon have to face the same harsh reality that Batch is now dealing with.
It's one thing to try your best and realize you're not good enough, but it's quite another when a freak injury prevents you from finding out if you ever truly had what it takes.
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