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 big of a boost will the Steelers get from the return of Joe Haden to the lineup?
There is hope, and then there is reality. The hope was that the Steelers would be able to get Joe Haden back before the Patriots game. The hope was that they would be able to beat the Patriots. The reality is that he wasn’t quite ready to be back on the field. The reality was that they were able to beat the Patriots, but they didn’t.
The hope is what we live for; the reality is what we live in. The Steelers lost to the Patriots and they must pick themselves up and move on from that with the repercussions that follow. But the hope (there’s that word again) is that Haden will be ready to return for the team’s next game against the Texans.
There is no argument that since Haden has been out with a fractured fibula, the Steelers’ secondary has become increasingly susceptible to giving up deep plays, which have frequently resulted in touchdowns, a problem that did precede his injury, but which got much worse after it.
Coty Sensabaugh, his primary replacement, was responsible for, or at least involved in, several of those plays, but Cameron Sutton has since become the starter in Haden’s absence. I still need to further go over his work from the last game, but he seemed to handle himself reasonably well.
Sutton was not exactly the problem with the passing defense last night. If we’re being honest, Rob Gronkowski was the problem. Some players are just too good to do much about if they’re playing up to the maximum of their capabilities.
But the Steelers brought in Haden for a reason, and before his injury he pretty much looked like what they paid for. And he should be back just in time for DeAndre Hopkins. Perhaps his return will even shift Sutton into a dime role.