The Pittsburgh Steelers are waiting on word to find out about the status of veteran cornerback Joe Haden, who suffered a hamstring injury in the second half of the team’s tie against the Cleveland Browns yesterday. Should he be forced to miss time as he did a year ago, it’s unclear how big of an effect that is going to have on the defense in his absence.
The Steelers were able to acquire Haden in late August last season when the Browns suddenly released him. he spent his first season in Pittsburgh mostly just trying to learn a new city and a new defense. There were big expectations for him heading into his first full year with the team, but now fingers are crossed that his hamstring injury is not serious.
It is not immediately evident when the injury occurred, but one possibility was the pass defensed when he was lined up against Josh Gordon late in the third quarter. On first and down from the Steelers’ 47, Tyrod Taylor fired a deep pass into the end zone, but Haden, while initially behind the play, was able to make up ground and elevate to break up the pass for an incompletion that otherwise likely would have been a touchdown.
That is not when he left the game, however. He stayed in for the second- and third-down plays, and came back for the Browns’ following offensive series as well, which consisted of four plays run. it was on the series following that that Cameron Sutton replaced him in the game, and there was no clear stress seen on those six additional snaps.
Haden missed five games last year after suffering a minor fracture in his leg, and the secondary really started to fall apart without him. Are the Steelers better-prepared to weather that storm if the veteran cornerback misses multiple games with a hamstring injury?
Sutton spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve, but played about a game and a half or so, including a start, in replacing Haden after Coty Sensabaugh—the initial next man up—was benched due to performance issues.
The Browns promptly picked on Sutton, beating him on a 38-yard pass and then a 17-yard touchdown, to tie the game with under two minutes to play. He did come back and intercept an underthrown ball in overtime.
Sensabaugh was a healthy scratch for the season opener, but that certainly would not be the case again if Haden misses next week’s game. The Steelers are only carrying five cornerbacks on the 53-man roster, at least for now, in 2018.
Sutton is the next man up and would start in Haden’s place, but Sensabaugh is now the only remaining cornerback in the event that something further happens. In the meantime, the two-time Pro Bowler is scheduled to have an MRI on his hamstring. I think the defense had better hope that it brings good news.