(Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Steelers, battling for a berth in the NFL playoffs, will likely be down to third-string quarterback Charlie Batch against the Browns but will welcome back wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
Batch is poised to step up as the starting signal caller for the banged-up Steelers after coach Mike Tomlin ruled out back-up Bryan Leftwich against Cleveland (2-8), due to injuries.
Leftwich, who started in place of two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger in last week’s 13-10 loss to AFC North rivals Baltimore Ravens, suffered multiple rib fractures in the game.
Also ruled out for the Browns game was wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who also suffered rib injuries during the hard-hitting loss to Baltimore.
To make up for the loss of Cotchery and the sidelined Antonio Brown (ankle), the Steelers on Tuesday signed Burress, the league’s website, nfl.com, reported.
Pittsburgh, who have won an NFL-best six Super Bowl titles, would qualify as a wildcard team with their 6-4 record but their grip on a postseason berth could be in jeopardy depending on how long Roethlisberger is sidelined by shoulder and rib injuries.
Burress, who played five seasons with Pittsburgh after they made him a first-round draft pick in 2000, has been out of football this season after spending 2011 with the New York Jets.
In between, the 6-foot 5-inches Burress won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants before spending nearly two years in prison on a gun charge until his release in June 2011.
The 37-year-old Batch, a second-round draft pick in 1998, was a starter in his first four seasons with the Detroit Lions, but has started only seven games in eight seasons as a Steelers’ back-up.
Tomlin would not categorically rule Roethlisberger out of the game against Cleveland, though it is believed the big quarterback requires more time to heal.
The Steelers have worked out a number of other potential fill-in quarterbacks and could be close to signing former New England Patriots back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer to provide depth at the position, the website said.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Julian Linden