The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: How much longer will the defense be without starting cornerback Joe Haden?
The Steelers have been without the services of cornerback Joe Haden for about two and a half games. While they have come out the victor in each of those three games—two of them requiring last-second field goals—there have clearly been issues, some of which can be tied directly to his absence.
For one thing, his replacement has been responsible for relinquishing two long plays that, coupled with shoddy tackling on the back end, resulted in touchdowns. Coty Sensabaugh had not played a snap on defense for the Steelers before Haden was injured, but has since not come off the field.
The former Browns cornerback suffered a high fibular fracture three games ago, and while there was initial optimism about a relatively quick return, it is beginning to grow concerning as to when that might be.
Head coach Mike Tomlin yesterday not only already ruled him out for a return this week, he seemed to suggest that we are not even close enough to a return for him for it to even make sense to really talk about it.
The elephant in the room that we are apparently allowed to address now is the fact that the Steelers have two more games to play before they host the Patriots at Heinz Field. It goes without saying that they would love to be able to get him back on the field by then.
For the moment at least, it certainly doesn’t feel as though he is on track to make it back by then. There is a good chance that the Steelers will be playing for a potential opportunity to secure homefield advantage throughout the conference playoffs shorthanded at the position. How will they adjust in the meantime?