By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers capped the 2011 NFL Draft by taking Texas Tech running back Baron Batch late in the seventh round Saturday night, and the club apparently got more than just an athlete in the 5-foot-10, 210-pound bruiser.
A three-year starter with the Red Raiders, Batch also started writing a weekly column for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper during his senior season. And he was just as productive off the field as he was on it.
“I actually wrote a (weekly) article for two papers,” Batch said. “I wrote for the Midland paper (in Texas), my hometown, and for the Lubbock paper. I (also) do a lot of humanitarian stuff. I worked in Haiti and did a lot of stuff down there, but I just like to help people. I like to use my platform to affect people in a positive way.”
Batch went to Haiti after Texas Tech’s bowl game and used his blog as a means to finance a year of schooling for several Haitian children. Even though Batch said he couldn’t take credit for it, referring to a higher power instead, a particularly inspiring column talking about never giving up stopped a man from committing suicide. The man approached Batch after the season and told him the player’s article saved his life.
“Baron is an interesting kid (and) has been an excellent running back in the Texas Tech offense, which is like a third-down offense in the NFL,” Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said. “His ability to receive or catch the ball was impressive for us.”
Batch had a rushing average of better than five yards per carry for his career with a high at 6.7 yards in 2008. He ran for 758 yards that year and scored seven touchdowns. He also had 45 catches for another score.
Batch also ran for 884 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009 and caught 57 passes for another score. Last season, he tallied 816 yards and five touchdowns to go with 32 catches and three more scores. He did not fumble the football in college and ranked eighth on the school’s career rushing list with 2,501 yards, and is ninth in all-purpose yards with 3,612.
“The Steelers were most impressed with how I picked up the blitz and just liked the way I played overall,” Batch said. “(And) I’m just happy things worked out the way they did (with the Steelers). … I can see myself as a third-down back, a special teams (player) or whatever they want me to do.”
The Steelers have Rashard Mendenhall entrenched as a starter at running back and have used Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore as backups and in third-down, short-yardage and goal-line last season. Jonathan Dwyer was drafted in the sixth round last season, but dressed for only one game while struggling to learn the offense. Moore, typically the third-down back, is a free agent.