Few people know about life in Michigan and Pennsylvania like Charlie Batch does. From childhood to adulthood, he spent most of his life in both states. Two chapters of Batch’s adult life will collide when the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers face each other on Sunday. And to this day, both franchises hold a special place with Batch, but for different reasons.
When it comes to the Steelers, the reasons are endless.
For starters, they’re the NFL team he grew up watching as a kid out of Homestead, PA. Then to top it off, they became the team where he’s had his career’s best moments. After all, Batch is a two-time Super Bowl Champion (XL and XLIII) with the Steelers. And to this day, he’s still affiliated with them indirectly. Through work with a Pittsburgh local CBS affiliate, Batch serves as an analyst covering the team.
The love that Charlie Batch has for the Black and Yellow is evident. But when it comes to the Lions, his love for them is deep but different.
And that’s because Detroit is where his career started.
The Lions selected Batch with the 60th overall pick (2nd round) of the 1998 NFL Draft. Hailing out of Eastern Michigan University, where he still holds passing records, Batch was the Lions’ starting quarterback for the better part of his time in Detroit.
Unfortunately, he didn’t attain the career success he desired with the Lions. To his credit, though, Batch takes some ownership for this. In his own words, he cites his series of injuries as a reason (not the reason) the Lions failed to win a playoff game during his time in Detroit.
The biggest reason, however, was the constant change. Batch and his teammates had to work within the Lions’ lack of consistency from changing coaches and general managers to the exit of key players.
When talking with Woodward Sports, Batch pointed out that’s one of the differences between the Lions and Steelers as an organization.
“I think a lot of it essentially is [that] you have an organization with the Steelers, who has a culture for winning, and [they] know how to win. And I think ultimately, with the Lions, they’re trying to learn how to win. And that’s a huge difference there,” Batch told Woodward Sports. “Because in Pittsburgh, they’re a lot more patient. They don’t change coaches. In Detroit, unfortunately, when things aren’t going well, it’s time to move on.”
“You’re not able to build a culture that way when you have constant change that way.”
There’s a lot of merit to Batch’s claims here. Because as the old saying goes, “Patience is a virtue.” And Batch backs up those claims with one name: Kevin Colbert.
After going 9-7 in 2000 and missing the playoffs, the Lions decided to rebuild. And part of that rebuild was the hiring of Matt Millen as general manager––a decision that would set the Lions back for several years. Millen’s arrival signaled the exit of Batch, eventually, but immediately for Kevin Colbert, who at the time was the Lions’ pro scouting director.
Shortly after, Colbert joined the Steelers as Director of Football Operations. Ten years later, he became general manager, then vice president.
“He was able to get them over the hump. And the Steelers organization remained patient to allow him, with his vision, to continue to grow,” said Batch. “Now, Kevin, as the General Manager, [has] put on a Hall of Fame career. [Kevin] went to three Super Bowls. He won numerous division titles and AFC Championship games.”
“But people fail to forget that he was in Detroit, and he was 9-7 there, and he was one of the ones that got fired.”
Batch feels the Lions had the same lack of patience regarding their decision to fire Jim Caldwell.
“Yeah, it was shocking. And not only to me, but I think a lot of people were shocked around the country because it seemed like he had them right there on the cusp of getting over that hump,” said Batch. “Unfortunately, the powers that be weren’t as patient and made a change. And it was just one of those things that, you see everything where you go back, and of course, that’s hindsight 20/20, [but] you’re like, ‘Man, did they make the right decision?’ And I think when you look back to where they are now, the answer is no.”
“You hoped that he would’ve had the opportunity, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”
Charlie Batch does not have the strong ties that he once did to the Lions’ front office. However, he still wishes them well. Partly is due to who is on the coaching staff. With the Steelers, Batch played with Lions’ wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El and running backs coach Duce Staley, whom Batch holds in high regard.
“Selfishly, I’m hoping that Duce gets that opportunity to become a head coach because he paid his dues. Hopefully, he gets a chance,” said Batch. “It’s just tough whenever you’re not having the team success at this point, and whether people feel like you’re a top candidate at this point. So hopefully, his time will be coming soon.”
And Batch didn’t stop there with his praise for Staley.
“His communication skills are top tier,” said Batch. “And I think that’s something that you have to have––being able to stand in front of a group of guys and get your message across clear and concise. So I think that’s something.”
“Whenever you have the experience that he has, from the player experience, that brings validity to it. And then now, his coaching experience, he has a heck of a resume at this point.”
After praising Staley, Batch mentioned how he’s looking forward to seeing both of his old teammates on Sunday. The chances he gets to see them are rare. And when it happens, it’s usually when the Steelers honor one of the championship teams.
Another thing that Charlie Batch is looking forward to, despite his Steelers ties, is the Lions turning the team around. Currently The Lions are sitting at 0-8 after losing some heartbreaking games this season. Batch feels that, from afar, many things are starting to reveal themselves about the unit.
“If they don’t win this game in Pittsburgh, they’re 0-9, and you better get a victory the following Sunday, because if you don’t get that victory, now you’re going on national TV [Thanksgiving game] sitting at 0-10,” said Batch. “And that’s going to be tough because I just saw the article that the attendance dipped down under 50,000 for the first time in 10 years.”
“And then if you’re sitting there win-less, heading to that Thanksgiving game, and now it’s on national TV, it could be embarrassing to a certain degree because you’re not even going to have the fans in the stands. That’s just a tough challenge all around.”
As his love for his former teams is evident, Charlie Batch’s love is also elsewhere. And that’s in his current role as Senior VP of Strategic Investments with CapStone Holdings. In his role, he is able to work with his alma mater, Eastern Michigan University (and its football team), in different spaces that include GameAbove Mobility, GameAbove Capital, and GameAboveEMU.
Batch is also giving back to his community in Southwestern Pennsylvania through his non-profit, Best of the Batch Foundation.
“We have been around now for 22 years. And to have the foundation for 22 years, and we service over 3,800 kids annually throughout nine counties,” said Batch. “To be able to do that, and have a hands-on approach that way, is exciting. Batch started his organization after losing his sister, Danyl, in 1996 due to gang violence.
She was only 17 years old.
Working in her honor, Batch’s foundation helps 3,800 annually, but that’s only for now. He and his foundation are currently in the middle of an expansion project for the foundation’s headquarters––one that will take them from a 5300 square feet facility to 33,000. The move will allow them to service a projected 6,000 kids annually.
“We’re an educational foundation,” said Batch. “We focus mainly on reading, computer literacy, along with our STEM programs. So we’re an educational-based foundation, trying to equip the tools they need to have a successful life.”
“And those are things that we continue to do. And people are unfamiliar with that. When I see the smiles on the kids’ faces, this is why we do what we do.”
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.