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2021 South Side Questions: Will Joe Haden Play Against Bengals?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Will Joe Haden play against the Bengals?

Even before the Steelers’ most recent two games, they were a team with plenty of question marks. Their four-game winning streak was notable, but they certainly were not winning in impressive fashion, coming from behind a couple of times, and intermittently struggling on offense or defense, if not both.

It was the defense that most recently laid an egg, allowing the Los Angeles Chargers to put up 41 points, all on long fields—they never had to defend more than 70 yards of grass. But that defense from last week was also severely hampered by their lack of availability of certain key assets.

T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick were two of them, and they are back this week. Cornerback Joe Haden was another—but he is not guaranteed to play. He has been listed as questionable on the final injury report, though since there’s no ‘probable’ designation anymore, the ‘questionable’ designation has become much more…questionable.

Haden, who suffered a foot injury the week prior, did not practice on Wednesday, and was limited on Thursday and Friday. As a very experienced veteran who knows all the ins and outs of the defense, he doesn’t need to practice at all to play, so that’s not the question. It’s just whether or not he’s healthy enough to cover Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.

In the event that Haden were not to play, James Pierre would make his fourth start of the season. His play has been up and down, but generally has improved over the course of his second year in the league, having played very little in 2020.

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