Joe Haden was supposed to be playing in only the second career playoff game of his 11 year career this Sunday. Instead, he’ll be sitting at home, forced to watch after a positive COVID result last Saturday. The ten day minimum isolation period means he won’t get cleared in time to play his former team, the Cleveland Browns, this weekend.
Meeting virtually with reporters Wednesday, Cam Heyward described what it’ll be like not having him on the field.
“First of all, we’re going to miss Joe,” he said via the Steelers’ YouTube channel. “I know Joe really wanted to be part of this game. I told him right then and there that the goal is to get him back for the divisional. But that’s us taking care of our business.”
Haden should be eligible to return for the Divisional Round two weeks from now. That is, as Heyward said, reliant on the Steelers beating the Browns this weekend.
Helping complete that mission is Cam Sutton, the man who’ll replace Haden as the team’s left cornerback. Sutton has played well this season, increasing his value as he heads into free agency, and Heyward is confident Sutton will continue his impressive play.
“When you talk about Cam Sutton, I like to think we have him and Mike [Hilton] who are guys who can play multiple positions. It’s a luxury we have. We’ve had to count on it in the past and we’re going to have to count on it here. Cam Sutton’s capable of doing that. He’s gonna make himself some money if he keeps fighting like he is.”
Sutton is coming off the best season of his career, recording eight pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and an interception in 16 games (six starts). He and Mike Hilton are set to be free agents. The hope is at least one will be re-signed.
The drop-off from Haden to Sutton in coverage isn’t dramatic. Haden will be missed in two key ways. He’s a very good run defender relative to the cornerback position against a Browns’ offense that relies on the run. Sutton missed a key tackle on Nick Chubb’s 47 yard score last weekend. And there will be a trickle down effect when the Steelers employ dime packages. Sutton will still shift inside but Justin Layne will now take the field as the team’s LCB. Layne has struggled, albeit in relatively limited action this year, including giving up a long reception to Rashard Higgins in the regular season finale.