Steelers News

Joe Haden Says He Was On ‘Pitch Count’ In Emotional Return From Injury

While the Pittsburgh Steelers’ injury woes this season wouldn’t quite stack up with the most unfortunate teams in the league, it is undeniable that they have been impacted substantially by the lack of certain players, particularly along the defensive line.

In the secondary, following an offseason that saw them lose two starters, the recent four-game absence of Joe Haden really tested the unit as the veteran cornerback dealt with a Lisfranc injury, one that he found to be very frustrating, as he told reporters after the game.

Coming back to the field, he said, was “Very, very emotional for me, just because you love the game. With the foot injury that I’ve had, it sucks, because it’s not like a set amount of time. ‘Oh, Joe, you’ll be back in three weeks’, ‘you’ll be back in two weeks’. It’s more of a, ‘when is my foot gonna be okay?’” Haden said.

Even though he missed four weeks, the Steelers never placed him on the Reserve/Injured List, obviously hopeful that he could return sooner. He only got in one full day of practice, however, even this past week before playing, and that did affect his playing time.

“It was more of a pitch count today”, he acknowledged. “I haven’t been playing, I haven’t really been practicing too much, so Coach T and Coach TA, talking about my conditioning, just having me in two series, out a series, sometimes going in on dime. They kind of had me in a rotational piece today”.

Ahkello Witherspoon started the past two games in Haden’s place, and he continued to log snaps on the outside yesterday as Haden worked his way all the way back from the injury, which includes the conditioning component of the equation.

Haden made a couple of huge plays in the game, however, in spite of the lack of playing time. He recovered a fumble late in the third quarter forced by Cameron Sutton, a play that initially looked might actually be an interception, which he dove to retrieve mid-air. At the end of the game, he did an excellent job of bringing the receiver down short of the sticks on a 4th-and-7 play in a one-score game.

“Just being in the facility, loving my teammates and loving the game, wanting to play all the time, feeling like I’m in the way, that’s just me wanting to be out there with my boys”, Haden said about his emotions running high being back on the field for the first time in a month. “Just being able to go out there and make some plays, be involved, not feel like I’m in the way, it feels good”.

And it was good for the Steelers to have Haden back out there and making a difference. They will need him down the stretch, to be certain. Their depth was heavily tested in his absence—and that trade for Witherspoon is subsequently looking much better than it was a month ago, I’ll note.

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